By Lamont Washington
Volunteering. It’s one of those things you do to help others…at least that’s how it starts.
I became a “big brother” three years ago. My kids were grown, my grandkids didn’t need that much attention from me, and I wanted to give back to my community.
So I was paired with a young boy. He was nine years old at the time, and we just started hanging out. We went fishing, laser tagging, go-cart riding, and together we cheered on the Ravens at some very memorable home games. Despite our difference in age, we had lots of things in common; one thing in particular that really brought us together. We both had suffered a tragic loss.
One day my little asked me if we were going to be big/little brothers forever. I was curious about what had prompted that question. He told me, “I recently lost my big brother whom I was very close to and I don’t want to lose you.” I then shared with him that I lost one of my big brothers as well. We began to discuss our losses and how our respective big brothers had affected our lives. This was the first time in over 18 years I was able to discuss my brother’s death with anyone. This little boy helped me to finally accept my brother’s death and move forward with my life.
For me, part of moving forward meant becoming even more invested in my little’s life. He has parents, mom, dad and stepdad, but it ended up being me he chose to confide in. He opened up to me on a level he had never experienced before, sharing his innermost thoughts, trusting me like he had not trusted anyone since his beloved older brother.
I sat. I listened. Kids want you to listen. They want compassionate tones. They want to know you care. And I did. When we first met he was struggling in school and having some behavior issues with the other kids. We talked about it, worked hard to come up with solutions, and now I’m happy to say those situations have dramatically improved.
People talk about volunteers and mentors getting more out of it than what they put in, for me that definitely rings true. I thought I was giving back, but by giving a little time and, most importantly, by listening, I’m the one who got the real gift.
So now, three years later, my little is doing great. His grades are good, his relationship with his parents is solid and his confidence is stronger than ever. I’m seeing the fruits of my labor through the progress of this one young man, and both he and I couldn’t be happier. Volunteering has definitely changed my life.
All children need supportive, caring adults in their lives. When parents and families need additional support, JCS matches Big Brother or Big Sister mentors with children and teenagers ages 7 to 17. For more information, call JCS at 410-466-9200 or visit www.jcsbaltimore.org/volunteer/change-a-childs-life.
By Lamont Washington, Ignite Career Center
JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.