I’ve done my fair share of volunteering in my day. Usually cleaning beaches, removing graffiti or painting the homeless shelter but nothing that directly involved impacting actual human beings in a real way. One day, while out at a war protest, the route went past the area where a young girl was killed. There were pictures, balloons and memorials. All the folks in the housing development gaped at us out of their windows and doors, like “what the hell are those people doing?” I started thinking about that and how likely many of those people were not faring well economically. Maybe they were having trouble feeding their families or clothing them. It kind of made my war protest seem silly.
It was then I decided to do something to help a real person. Somehow I decided that I should join Big Brothers, Big Sisters. I was told that they have a really tough time recruiting enough men and that sometimes they would even match a boy with a woman (but not vice versa). The interview process made me nervous, they visited my apartment and asked uncomfortable questions about what I would do in certain situations, like if my “little” mentioned that someone was abusing her (yikes!) It was almost enough to make me run but I didn’t.
I was matched with the divine Ms. A. A was about 12 or so when we met. She was at the Zippy’s at Kapahulu with her Dad. I remember she told me that I looked like a tourist. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. I have witnessed A transition into adulthood (she turns 21 in October) with an ease that belies her colorful past. I applaud her mother for becoming a new person over the time I have known her. She has raised strong and beautiful daughters. The relationship I have with A is hard to define. We are friends, we are close. I think that mostly I am her mentor. We get together these days (she can walk from her boyfriend’s place where she lives) and chat, often over breakfast without my boys.
I used to think that I was not a good enough person to be a mentor. I thought that my job was not great enough or my place not big enough. The thing is, I was wrong. Many of the kids seeking to join BBBS are just looking for normal. The program wants to demonstrate to these kids what it is like to have an upbringing just like yours because chances are, they are not getting that and they may not know anyone who is getting that. They may not ever experience what you or I would consider “normal” because to them what they have is “normal”. Just the fact that you had that life, that regular upbringing, means that you are good enough to be a mentor. You can do that. You should do that, especially if you are a man. So go for it. I can’t say that you will be matched with a kid that is as good as A but, hey you never know.