Boilermaker Blog

Bye Bye Big Brothers


It was a small article tucked on page 6a in the Saturday Observer Dispatch announcing the discontinuation of the Big Brothers Big Sisters in Oneida, Herkimer and Madison counties due to declining matches.
It felt like a punch in the gut.
I was thrown back to a (much) earlier time when I was a “Big”.
After reading the story I remembered I had some mementos from those times -I went up to the attic to go on a journey into the past.
I opened a box that had been sealed for 21 years.
There sat a yellowed newspaper article (from the same Observer Dispatch) dated February 8, 1987 viewing a much younger me (complete with permed hair!) playing with my “Little” Chris at the Children’s Museum.
That year I received the Big Brother of the Year Award based on a letter written by Chris about me: it was punctuated with the words “he’s always there when I need him”.
That still touches me.
It would take a novel, not a simple blog, to talk about the evolution of a relationship that started with a 9 year old and ended with a 16 year old (traditional formal end date of big brothers big sisters relationships).
The journey certainly gave me a bit of vision of what it was going to be like to be a Dad with the accompanying joy and occasional sadness.
Here’s the sad fact- the need for young people having a mentor in their lives has not, in my opinion, lessened since I was a Big.
I’m also assuming the problem with declining matches was finding enough willing adults rather than needing kids.
No doubt volunteering in a mentoring program is more than a ‘one and done’ proposition: we’re talking about human beings here!
Consistency and predictability are key for kids whose lives are in a constant state of inconsistency and unpredictability usually through no fault of their own
It’s not for the faint of heart or those that are judgmental to take on that responsibility.
Saying that: I’m convinced I got more out of it than what I feel I put into the relationship.
Clearly the lives of the 20 something’s is far different than when I was in that space: as the Dad of three populating this age group I’ve seen it firsthand.
I really hate writing about problems without coming up with a solution.
Perhaps I’m just being nostalgic the old model Big Brothers Big Sisters model went the way of the payphone and spark-plugs.
Saying that, I think the idea of being a positive role model in the life of a child (whether they are biologically yours or not) never gets old!

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