Kelli's Letter - A Must Read.




“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Desmond Tutu

So many of us wonder what one person can do to make a difference. Be it one vote, one statement, one blog post, we think it is a small voice in a sea of louder, or at least numerous, vocalizations. I know the older I have become, the more I can get bogged down by details. Meeting a young woman in the fall of 2008 changed my perceptions about the impact a single person can have. Choosing to be a mentor gave me the opportunity to share values and skills with a young person who shared important life lessons in return, and my life was certainly altered.

Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) is a mentoring organization present in almost 370 communities in the United States. The organization visited my workplace with a proposal: visit a child for one hour, once a week at school, for one year. The process in becoming a Big is very thorough, because they truly want both the Big and the Little to be happy in the match. After a background check you have an interview where you discuss the person you are, the interests you have as well as who you envision as your prospective Little: ages, interests, etc. They ask you to commit to the match for one full year. They do the same with the children looking to be mentored. They find that positive matches, which last at least one year, have lasting effects including increased self-esteem, behavior improvements, school achievement and stability.

After being matched, I had my first meeting with M. at her school with our BBBS case manager. We filled out “getting to know you” quizzes and learned the program rules. Following that initial meeting I would visit M. every week on the same day at lunch. We would share in the unique flavorings of the school cafeteria.  On special occasions I would bring lunch as a reward for a job well done or a good week. We worked on schoolwork, but most importantly, we formed a bond. We talked about her fears, her frustrations and her joys! M. did not think she liked to read, but we read short stories together. I introduced her to S.E. Hinton, a writer who started young and whose characters have more difficult childhoods than some. She read Hinton’s book Rumble Fish in two days and was eager to let me know. She started sharing the plots and her opinions regarding books for school. Just as I introduced her to things, she shared her interests with me. From almost the first day of our meeting we could talk about everything. She has an extremely high regard for honesty and she demonstrated it to me, and expected it in return. When she began junior high the following year, we became a Community Based Match, meaning I now could do things with her outside of school. We would go for walks in the park (Dreamland Lake was one of our favorites, and the inspiration for the artwork we did together above). We would swing on swings, see movies, grab dinner, and through it all we would talk. The amount of trust she had in me was humbling, and indicative of the place I held in her life.

M. has a lot of passion for life and for what she believes. She was never as angry or hurt as when someone implied she was dishonest. She sometimes had a hard time displaying her passion in constructive ways, and this was one of the things we worked on changing. However, the important part was giving her the security of knowing someone was always in her corner, no matter what. Due to new challenges and changes in her family, our “official” match has ended, but we will always be “sisters” and have been forever changed for the better. I would like to be there to watch her graduate and I will never forget the lessons she taught me. I can only hope she carries with her my conviction in the person she is, her strength and her potential. M. taught me that children are stronger than we think and wiser than we know. She taught me that friendship is a powerful catalyst for growth and that honesty is paramount.

 

Mentoring:

There are currently 82 potential Littles waiting to meet a mentor, it might be you! If you are interested in mentoring please visit the website online at www.bbbscil.org or call to talk with Partnership Manager Zach Shields at (217) 428-4240.