Okay, the title has nothing to do with the rest of this post, but it's a headline that will never otherwise be. So there it is, bold and farcical.
I am putting the call out to ALL MEN to volunteer to mentor with the Big Brothers or a similar program. Why men specifically? Because, while there are a fair amount of female volunteers, the guys just aren't showing up. Which means there's a long waiting list for boys enrolled in the program, girls are matched with mentors fairly quickly.
I know, it seems like a really big deal, and a tough assignment, but my experience has been otherwise.
I started in November when I submitted my application and three references. From there there was a short training, an extensive interview that involved my background, sexual orientation, substance use history, family life, etc. They did a criminal background check, and after a couple months of vetting, I was informed that a match had been made, and I got to meet my Little.
We met in a moderated meeting with a social worker and his mother, and then went to a party for mentors and their Littles together.
Our match is still very new, and I can't say I know the kid really well yet, but I already care deeply about him. And it's become clear that this experience will be about more than taking him out for pizza. In our one solo outing thus far, we went to the Transit Museum, which he wanted to visit. We got along, played in the cabs of the fullsize buses and in the subway cars, but it was while looking at a model that the most profound moment came. It was a model of a bus from the 50s or 60s. He pointed at the back and matter-of-factly said "That's where the black people sat." Man, that freaked me out. I got scared that he was including me in an indictment of whites. So I said: "That's right. But they don't anymore. And I don't know if they had to in New York." It was one of those moments of truth. I wish I had allowed it more space and not gotten freaked out about it. If I am timid about race, he's going to sense very quickly it's something he can't talk about with me.
In some senses that was a big moment, but against the backdrop of the day it was a small moment in the first day of a burgeoning friendship.
It's not as hard as people think. Sure, the application's a pain, but after that, you get to do fun stuff with a kid who's matched to you by personality and interest. All you have to commit is 4 hours every two weeks. Go to a game, a museum, a movie, the park, do the stupid tourist stuff you never get to do, the stuff you always loved or wanted to do when you were a kid.
Do that for a kid who's lost his dad. You're not there to replace the father, just to be someone stable who the kid can trust.
Volunteer as a Big Brother