By Carlie Boswell, Enrollment and Match Coordinator
Earlier this year, I interviewed Jahaun after he applied to become a Big Brother. Jahuan stood out as a compassionate, thoughtful and intelligent individual. I genuinely enjoyed getting to meet him and his family. As an Enrollment and Match Coordinator, I interview Bigs and Littles when they apply to be in the program. Once they are matched, our Match Support Specialists are the ones who support them throughout their match. This means I do not get to hear about the unique relationships they build with their Littles. I was excited to visit with Jahaun recently and see the changes and progress he has gone through since his initial interview.
Why did you want to become a Big Brother?
I was fortunate to have very involved parents while growing up – though, while observing my childhood friends’ parents, I noticed almost all of them had the longing for two involved parental figures. Some of their parents lived in a different state, were in prison, worked excessively long hours or were just emotionally complacent for their children. I believe these sorts of predicaments have manifested into adulthood.
What was it like meeting your Little Brother for the first time?
I was excited and anxious in the moments leading up to the first meeting. Once I set foot in Tanner’s* household and glanced at him, I remember thinking he must be feeling the same. He had a difficult time making eye contact with me, but he loved talking about all of the things we were going to do – golfing, bowling, eating, playing outside, etc. I imagine a Big Brother or Big Sister’s first worries are “I hope he/she likes me.” We want to feel like we are making an impact in a child’s life. I felt reassured knowing that all Tanner wanted to do was have fun.
What has been your favorite outing so far?
During the summer, we intended to go to a music and food festival downtown. I somehow became lost driving us there, but we stumbled upon a beautiful view of the city. We decided to park and gaze at the city line during the day. We both enjoy quieter and relaxing lifestyles and the sightseeing prepared us for the loud and crowded festival that followed after we gained our bearings. I think going to the festival afterward also brought us both out of our comfort zones and was a sort of ‘growing’ experience we bonded over.
How has the relationship between you and your Little Brother grown?
I found that what is cool about our relationships is that it brings us into circumstances we would not have otherwise found – like the city gazing and festival outings. I believe experiencing new things with others is one of the most significant ways to bond.
What do you think your Little Brother has gained from you?
I really enjoy that Tanner is such a curious type – he is always asking questions about things and there never seems to be a dull moment in his brain! I am a scientist and sometimes do genetic engineering – he asks questions like “can you make a blue frog?” I think reinforcing his curiosity will set him in a place of exploration as he grows up.
What has been the hardest part of the match that you did not expect?
I think it is easy to fall into a trap of grandiose expectations and paint a picture with rose-tinted glasses. Being with someone and communicating with them requires work! Sometimes you or your Little may be exhausted prior to an outing or one of you may have had a bad week. I have learned that we are all human and we should approach each other with open arms and compassion – let’s cut each other some slack!
What do you feel that you have learned or gained from your Little Brother?
Tanner is a child of curiosity and an enjoyer of the quiet and small things in life. As an adult, it is so easy to get caught up in so many things we perceive as ‘big’ – work, school, friends, dating, etc., that I think we forget to stop and enjoy the small things. Tanner has introduced me to some beautiful parks and sightseeing locations that I cannot believe I have missed. He has taught me to sit down at these places and enjoy the view and the peace. I think it is remarkable how someone his age is teaching an adult meditative-like values.
What would you want future Bigs to know about becoming a mentor?
Everyone’s experience as a Big will be different, but I encourage all Bigs to approach their role as a mentor with an open mind and acceptance. You are essentially caring about a child – accepting them for who they are, encouraging their growth and development, and ultimately, adding to their life. This may lead to a further cascade of reactions where your Little contributes to others’ lives as they grow! If you’re all about giving and spreading some love, your role as a Big is invaluable!
*Name changed to protect privacy