How Being a Big Sister Gave me a Sense of Purpose  

You  may have clicked on this post because you yourself are a big sister. I never had the chance to be a big sister until I was a freshman in college. No, my mom didn’t have another child. Simply put, I was assigned a sister through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

My BBBS Experience

My freshman year of college at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, I played on the volleyball team. As part of the team, we were required to volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest. The experience excited me, yet intimidated me at the same time. I only had an older brother who I wasn’t close with at the time and I was worried about whether or not I would form a relationship with my Little.

The program required you to meet with your Little at least once a week for an hour. I remember the first time I was introduced to my Little, Leah. We were both so quiet and shy. We sat down in the room with the other Bigs and Littles and everyone was talking and laughing, interacting with ease. Meanwhile, I was coloring with Leah in silence, unsure what to say.

It took a couple of meetups for us to open up to each other–have easier conversations, laugh more and play more games. For me, I think it was the pressure of wanting to be a great role model. I never had a sister of my own and was also reserved with people I was just meeting. It was nerve wracking to be partnered with a little girl who I thought might think I wasn’t “cool” enough for her.

 

Big Brothers Big Sisters

The last day with my Little, April 2013

Over time, I could feel our friendship becoming stronger. I remember how her face would light up when she saw me and how she would bring me around to all her friends and proudly introduce me as her big sister.

At about four months into the program, Leah gave me a card for Valentine’s Day. Even though it was a couple weeks after the holiday, I couldn’t be more thrilled to read it. It said, “When I see you, it’s like the sun is shining.” It took everything in my power to not tear up in front of her.

I also knew at this point that I would be transferring schools and would soon have to break the news to her. The last visit before spring break, I walked her home and explained that I would no longer be able to be her Big come May because I was going to go to school in New York instead. She ran into her house before she could see me break down.

Having to tell Leah goodbye was one of the hardest things I think I’ve ever had to do. To look a child in the face, someone who admired you so deeply and had come from such an unstable home with no role model, and tell them that you’re leaving was heartbreaking.

Her mom told me that all she ever did was talk about me, and I was so taken aback. I didn’t realize how much of an influence I was to her. It made me sad that her mom would not put her in the program the following year, for fear that she would get too attached to someone else and get hurt again. But her grades were not very good, so I was sad that she would not have another student from the program sit down with her to help her with her homework on a weekly basis.

What the Program Taught Me

I learned a lot through this program. Not only did it make me realize how grateful I was for how I grew up, but it made me appreciate the small things in life. Leah came from a rough family–two troubled older sisters, a younger brother with developmental issues and a younger sister that was a different nationality.

It also gave me more confidence and reassurance of who I was. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t live up to her expectations. That I wasn’t good enough to be the role model she needed. I never knew I could have such an effect on a child.

Being paired with my Little showed me the difference I can make in one person’s life. Not only did I grow, but we grew together. I saw a lot of myself in her in many ways and I wished more than anything I could have continued the program with her.

One of the most rewarding aspects of the program was that it solidified my desire to mentor in the future. At SUNY Oswego, I was part of the transfer student mentor program. Currently, I am a mentor to a Syracuse University public relations student.

I never realized the program would have such an impact in my life. I am forever grateful for the precious time I had with my Little.

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