We asked one school-based Big Sister for a mentoring story, a time she knew just how much mentoring mattered.
Flashback to when I was my Little Sister’s age now. Twenty-five years ago (?!) I was the Hermione Granger of my third grade class: bookish, a pint-sized know-it-all who, in truth, probably knew a lot for someone who just learned to tie her shoes. Learning came simple, and I loved it. I wasn’t not friends with anybody. I had two best friends (the sort who grew up to be the maids of honor at my wedding, my daughter’s honorary aunties). I participated in after-school activities. My parents (and aunts and uncles and grandparents and sometimes cousins) attended my piano recitals. When I came home from school, my grandmother made sure I did my homework and my chores, that I went outside to play, that I came in promptly when dinner was served so we could sit together around a table crowded with family and friends of family, that we ate together while the food was still hot (not lukewarm, mind you, hot). Meal time was a raucous affair marked by loud story-telling, jokes, laughter, tears…my village.
The decision to volunteer in one of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters’ School Programs was, in part, inspired by my experiences of school as that place where you develop a lifelong love of learning, where you build important friendships, where your teachers are there to support you and, when you go home, your family is there to (feign) delight in that thing you learned in history class.
Well, I mentor someone for whom learning doesn’t come simple, whose friends are few, whose best friends are even fewer (she had a best friend once, last year, for a couple of weeks). I mentor someone who is bused from an underperforming district to a high-performing one, who can’t participate in after-school activities because she has that bus to catch back to the neighborhood where none of her classmates live. I mentor someone who thinks history is a snooze. I mentor someone whose family is good, whose family is hard-working, whose family crowds around a table enjoying the raucous affair that is dinner, whose family longs to hear a school day story, any school day story. I mentor someone who sometimes swears she has nothing good to tell them, nothing good to say for herself.
“Except on Wednesdays.”
Except on Wednesdays: Which is the day we catch up over her lunch and recess to make arts and crafts and play board games. Which is the day we spend a lot of time talking about her older brother, music, television programs, cafeteria lunch. Which is the day she catches me up about how little she’s learned in history class that week, the day I learn she’s actually learned plenty, that she knows more than she lets on, that she doubts her own ability. The day I tell her I’m wicked proud of her. The day maybe, I hope, she feels at least a little bit proud of herself. Wednesdays reaffirm for me how much mentoring matters.
Learn more about volunteer opportunities in Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters’ School Programs here.