Is Mentoring all that Meaningful and Magical?  You bet it is!

By Sonia B. Glover, Big Sister

All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and someone who believes in them. – Earvin “Magic” Johnson

We all know that mentoring a child is a good thing. It’s common sense, really.  We’ve heard about the many positive benefits:  it improves self esteem; kids do better in school; instills the belief that great things can be achieved in life; and guides young people on the right path as they grow into adults.  No doubt, it’s encouraging and inspirational stuff.  And research has shown this to be true.  Some people even call it magical.

Sometimes, however, just hearing about the importance of mentoring doesn’t do justice to the profound impact it really has on a child and the mentor.  A true understanding of the benefits of mentoring relationships cannot be attained through mere words that were spoken or by reading statistics that have been gathered.  Hearing the words is one thing – experiencing mentoring is another.  I discovered this first hand when I became a Big Sister.

Unless you have mentored a child, one can never really appreciate the deep connection that is created and nurtured over time.  For me, mentoring has been a life-changing journey.  It’s been very personable and spiritual, and I highly recommend it to everyone. There are many deserving young people in our communities who need a little extra guidance, support, and are hungry for a meaningful and healthy friendship.  Giving just a few hours of our time can have a lasting positive impact on so many young lives.

Ever since I can remember, I had a desire to give back to the community and started volunteering many years ago. While it’s probably and old cliché, I sincerely mean it when I say there is no greater feeling than helping others.  In addition to my chosen volunteer activities, I also thought about being a Big Sister one day.  A co-worker of mine was a Big Brother and he often spoke proudly and positively about his experience.   But like so many people, my main hesitation was the time factor.  Would I have enough time to get involved in something else?  Upon reflection, I came to the conclusion that it’s incumbent upon all of us to make the time if we want to make a difference.  And that is exactly what I did.

Almost 12 years ago I called Big Brothers Big Sisters to inquire about their programs and expressed my interest in becoming a Big Sister.  It was one of the best decisions I ever made.   Today, I am a proud Big Sister to Jasmine and the word ‘extraordinary’ is not powerful enough to describe the bond we share. Our friendship is a blessing.  Jasmine and I have developed a foundation that is needed for all friendships to grow and build beautiful memories.  This includes the all important mutual trust and respect, unconditional support and caring, and a genuine desire to heighten each other’s happiness.   In addition, of course, there needs to be common interests and we certainly have those, too.  Jasmine and I enjoy the outdoors, going to movies, berry picking, mini-golf, reading, and playing a Scrabble.  We both adore all animals and we love to explore new things.  I enjoy my time with Jasmine so much that I look forward to our next outing even before the one we are on is over!   The feeling I get when I bring Jasmine home after an outing is difficult to describe. It’s like a wave of happiness washes over me.

All this said, our friendship is not only wonderful because of our similar interests and that we care for each other.  It is special because of the ways we are different.  As an example, Jasmine has an extremely quiet and shy personality. I am opposite of that – anyone who knows me knows I am the outgoing energy bunny. I am a passionate individual always in ‘flat out’ mode. I am a driven person who feels the need to achieve as much as I can in the run of a day.  I think our very different personalities complement each other beautifully. I hope my enthusiasm and high energy personality will have a positive impact on Jasmine as our relationship continues to grow.  In fact, I have noticed that she has come out of her shell more and seems less shy at times.   Every now and then Jasmine will tell me something out of the blue and display such sweet excitement in her voice. It is music to my ears. The fact that she feels comfortable enough to tell me certain things demonstrates to me I am helping with her confidence to speak up.

One of many things that I value about Jasmine’s personality is that her calm and quiet nature makes me see things differently. When we are together I do not feel like I have to take on the world and ‘get something done’!   Instead, I find myself relaxing more and enjoying the quiet time. Jasmine probably doesn’t know it, but she has taught me that we all need to slow down sometimes, take a breather and relax.  She has taught me that a quiet stroll along Kenny’s Pond slurping a melting Popsicle on a hot sunny day is more meaningful that working 12 hour days just to please someone else or to simply tick something else off my bucket list.  Unknowingly, she is constantly reminding me that the simple things really matter in life.

All that said, what’s even more special about being with Jasmine is sometimes we don’t need to speak at all.  One of the things I cherish about our friendship is how I have learned that silence, a twinkle in the eye, a soft chuckle, and the mere physical presence of someone can be more significant than any word spoken.  Clearly, being a Big Sister has enhanced my life tremendously and for that I am grateful.  However, Jasmine’s current and future well-being will always be my main focus.  My greatest wish is that being part of her life will always bring her joy, build her confidence and, most importantly, empower her to reach her full potential as she grows into an amazing and strong woman.

Oh, and is our friendship magical?  You bet it is!  In case you didn’t know… Magic happens when you open up your heart and let others in.  Magic happens when an unexpected smile pops on your face.  Magic happens when you hear something inspiring and crave more.  Magic happens when you burst into a fit of laughter as the cherry on top of your ice cream sundae falls into your lap.   Jasmine and I are living all of these magical moments one day at a time.  No matter what the future brings, our friendship will be everlasting in our hearts and minds.  You can’t get any more meaningful or magical than that.