My friend Rachel asked the question of her Facebook friends: “For those of you who grew up in church, especially one with a youth group, what kind of things did the people in the church and leaders of the youth do that helped you feel welcomed and safe and blessed? “The overwhelming answer? Relationships. People at the church who spent time with me and got to know me.
I ask Girl Scouts what they like about their Girl Scout troops all the time. The answer almost always has something to do with the troop leaders who share their time and talents, homes and vehicles with girls in their troop.
I heard a speaker at one of our schools one time tell the adults gathered that it is vital that each child have five adults who love them, nurture them and invest in them. Five.
I went to a meeting of a group that’s working to bring Big Brothers Big Sisters to Henderson County tonight. This is my second meeting with this group and tonight’s gathering was quite a bit smaller than the informational luncheon I attended last month. That’s okay, because now is the step where a board forms and starts to raise money and hire a caseworker and recruit mentors.
I’ve always been a mentor. When I was in high school, I mentored children at the Salvation Army in Gary. In college, I worked with organizations that went to schools. The summer I worked in Ft. Wayne, I started a girls mentoring program in the afternoons. Early on in my time in Henderson, I worked with Project Aspire and mentored Victor from the time he was in second grade (his mother died that year) to the time he was a fifth grader. In my ministry, I always have a child or a student who requires a little bit more of my attention, time and resources.
I believe in mentoring. I believe it makes a difference. I believe it’s important for a child or a teenager to know that someone cares about him or her. I believe that there are some children who never hear that they are smart, never hear that they have talents, never hear that they can do…MORE.
Mentoring gives an adult a chance to help a child realize all of these things. When you spend time with a child and you pay attention, you see things that a teacher with a class of 30 may miss. You notice things that a tired mother of four who works two jobs might not mention. You hear things that peers don’t value. When you spend time with a child, you sometimes get the gift of hearing about dreams and plans and hopes. Or at least some funny jokes and important observations.
Maybe I’m an idealist–I often am. But I don’t really understand why someone wouldn’t want to spend one hour a week mentoring a child who needs a positive adult influence. Kids with adults who care about them, who pay attention to them, who take them to ball games and listen to them read and teach them a new skill–those kids are less likely to be involved in crime, more likely to do well in school, better prepared to thrive and make their world better.
This won’t be my last entry about BBBS. I’m expecting good things to happen in Henderson as a result of the meetings and gatherings and the visions of a few of our community leaders, movers and shakers.