Have we done all we can? Consider becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister

There were a few tragic news stories involving area teens last July that compelled me to action. I heard of a shooting here in Euclid on East 200th Street, and around the same time there was the report of a Mentor High School athlete who was found passed out in a backyard of a friends’ house and died on the way to the hospital. While it's too late to undo what happened, we don't have to get caught up in the faulty logic of the "since we can't save everyone, we shouldn't even try" mentality. Instead, we can focus on the things that do go well and continue doing the positive things that do make a difference for the sake of those they do make a difference to. Sure, some kids won’t listen, but some will. We can at least respond to those who reach out to us.

The best community service any adult can do is to set a positive example for young people. We can start at home and with extended families, and then we can seek and take advantage of any opportunity to be encouraging to all young people in our community. Smile at them as you go down the street, thank them when they do something considerate, offer them praise, and wish them well if you see them still wearing their sports gear at the library after practice. You could also attend their sporting events and theatre productions that are advertised around town. If you are even more compelled, you can get involved as a tutor, youth group leader, or coach. Those who still have more to share may want to consider becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister for a child who would benefit from time, attention and practical advice from an understanding adult in his or her life.

I contacted Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland and learned that there are currently 65 girls whose parents requested a Big Sister and are awaiting a match. There is an even more alarming number of boys - over 300 – who are waiting for a Big Brother match. According to the organization’s web site, more than 70 percent of enrolled children waiting for a Big [Brother or Sister] are boys, but only three out of every 10 inquiries to volunteer come from men. The average wait for a match is more than two years. A lot can happen in two years that can make a critical difference in the direction a youth takes with the course of their life.

There is something interesting that happens in the mentoring process for the benefit of the mentor, too. Mentors, who serve as role models, sharpen their own character as well. It can start with subtle things like standing up straighter and making healthier choices at meal times. Even if we tend to do these things anyway, we may do them more consistently. Those who mentor may tend to communicate more positively and assertively when trying to set a good example. Mentors often re-evaluate their own perspective in the process and usually benefit from things they discover. I always find that I hone my own skills and renew my own inspiration whenever I’m asked to take on a mentoring, teaching or coaching types of roles.

In addition to the children seeking mentors in Cuyahoga County, there are young people in the surrounding Lake, Geauga, Medina and Lorain counties looking for Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Anyone interested can start the application process at www.bbbs.org. The application process requires references, an interview and a thorough background check. The application process will allow you to list those hobbies and activities you enjoy. There may be a kid out there that would love to do those things with you.

So many of the world’s problems can feel overwhelming, especially if we let those worries and fears drain our energy and spirit. We can make better use of our energy by directing it towards doing something positive and potentially rewarding such responding to the calls of the hundreds of children in our area who are waiting for a Big Brother or Big Sister.

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Volume 1, Issue 7, Posted 3:24 PM, 10.19.2010