Chris and Isaiah have been matched since November 2014 and just celebrated their 3 year mark of friendship. Isaiah is now 12 years old and was matched when he was 9 years old. The pair enjoy activities that revolve around sports and have played basketball, football, and hockey together. Not only do they play sports, but they have also been to a variety of sporting events together including, Lakewood Blueclaws games, a Rutgers University Basketball game, and a NJ Devils hockey game.
Chris is an engineer and has shown Isaiah how to build model cars and rockets. In a recent conversation with his case manager, Isaiah was asked what he liked about Chris and he explained, “He’s a good person and is fun to hang out with.” When asked to explain what makes Chris a good person he stated, “Even though he has a new job and is further away, he still makes the time to come see me and spend time with me.”
Recently, we spoke with Chris to find out a little more about why he became a mentor and what he has learned from being part of the program.
What prompted you to want to become a big?
I grew up the oldest of 4 kids. I’ve always been proud of being a big brother to my sister and two brothers. Once I settled down in New Jersey, I wanted to root myself in the community. Once I got the idea to volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters, I was hooked. I knew being a Big would allow me a chance to merge my experience with my desire to build a stronger community.
How long have you been participating in the program for?
Around 3 years.
What has been rewarding about being a big?
There’s always a rewarding feeling knowing that I’m making a difference. Not just in Isaiah’s life, but for his family, friends, and ultimately our community. But the most rewarding part has been building such a strong friendship with Isaiah.
What has been challenging about being a Big?
I have to continuously remind myself that while my Little and I have a lot in common, there’s also a lot that we don’t. When I was Isaiah’s age, it was the early 90’s and for the most part I had a very analog childhood. For example, I got my first cell phone at 17. I can’t fathom what it’s like to grow up surrounded by digital culture – and it’s been a challenge to try and understand his perspective. On the flip side, it’s very difficult for Isaiah to grasp just how different my childhood was. But it’s made for some interesting conversations!
What advice would you give to people considering becoming mentors?
Don’t expect gratitude or appreciation to come freely, especially early in your match. The friendship with your Little is going to take a lot of time and hard work, and in many cases you have to be extremely patient.
Do you have a favorite memory in mind that you’ve shared with your Little
My favorite memory was this time we were driving to a mini-golf place, during the first year of our match. I accidentally un-muted the music in my car, and Isaiah was introduced to bluegrass. Without missing a beat he cracked a joke about how silly it sounded. I don’t remember the joke itself, but I remember how well delivered and genuinely hilarious it was. It’s also the moment I realized just how smart & quick-witted Isaiah was. Nowadays, humor & joking around has been one of the foundations of our friendship.
What has been your favorite outing with your Little?
I took him to a New Jersey Devils game last year. I got to introduce Isaiah to a very important part of my life (hockey), and we had an awesome time. He’s looking forward to another game this season!
How do you feel your relationship has impacted your Little?
I feel it’s broadened his horizons in a lot of ways. He’s been exposed to many new concepts, ideas about the potential for his future, and ways he can approach life. At the same time, he’s realized that friendships aren’t always about having fun. It’s hard work, and a friend will tell you when you mess up. But knowing that friend will always be there to help you fix the problem and learn from it: that’s had a major impact.
What has it been like to work with BBBSMMC?
I continue to be amazed by the professionalism, dedication, and talent of the BBBSMMC staff. They are 100% engaged, with a clear mission and consistent positive attitude. They’ve supported me every step along the way as a big – through the fun times and rough patches. They also organize plenty of opportunities and events that remain some of our fondest outings! I continue to seek ways to do whatever I can for the program – thanks to their infectious energy!
What surprised you the most about being a part of the program?
How much demand there is from the community – and sadly how little supply there is to support it. Especially for boys, who can wait a long time to meet their new Big Brother. I’m surprised that with all the potential mentors in our community, more don’t get involved. I urge anyone who might be reading this who is ‘on the fence’ to take the leap. Being a Big is hands-down one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve grown just as much from the experience as my Little, probably even more so.
Give your time and sign up to be a Big! Apply here: www.bbbsmmc.org/apply-now.