I have been a Big Sister four times and this is definitely one of the best stories I have. Recently my Little Sister and I were having dinner at a local buffet. She was very concerned because her family might move to Oklahoma. She said, "Please pray with me that we don't move to Oklahoma, I just don't want to go." We said a prayer aloud in the restaurant, holding hands, while the other patrons looked on, I'm sure wondering what our deal was. We prayed that if this was the best move for her family and God's will, we understood, but if there was anyway they could stay, we would really appreciate it. She then said, "Please, please, please promise me that if I go, you will get a new Little Sister." I said, "I will consider it but you will be very hard to replace." (We get along so great and like doing a lot of the same things like eating out, going to thrift stores, taking walks and just girl things.) She then said, "Promise me, you have to, I just don't want you to be lonely." Wow, it was hard not to start bawling but instead I gave her a smile, nodded, and ate the rest of my egg roll.
To be honest, I really didn't know what I was getting myself into. Sure I like kids but I wasn't sure if I'd like the kid (the staff member) picked out for me. As it turned out, its been great. My Little Brother has given me much joy and satisfaction and I thoroughly look forward to the times we spend together.
It took about a month or two but then we really hit it off. Things started to be less serious, less formal. He got more comfortable with me and I with him. His sense of humor started to shine through and we soon became good at eight-year-old banter whenever we got together. The one big thing I had not pre-planned was how easy it is to be together. I'd thought it would be a pain coming up with ways to . entertain an eight year old - it's been a lot of years since my kids were eight - but it's been painless. Whatever we do is fine. We can do exciting things like going fishing or taking in a ball game or we can do simple things like playing a game of cribbage or building a bird feeder...it doesn't seem to make any difference. We have fun no matter what. Our only rule is no handheld electronics when we're together.
If there is one thing (my Little Brother) re-taught me it's that adults are really important to kids. He looks to me for input on so many of life's challenges. He has forced me to take time to have fun and to celebrate what it means to be a kid again. He helps me to see the world through eight year old eyes and that is both amazing and a little bit scary. He needs me and surprisingly, I need him too. My life has taken on a new meaning since meeting (my Little Brother).
Being a Big Sister has added a special spark to my life. To see my Little Sister's face light up when she sees me causes joy beyond description. 1 can physically see the changes in my Little Sister since we met almost 3 years ago. She smiles more, she takes better care of herself, she's more self assured... She even tells me how happy she is and that meeting me was the absolute best thing that has ever happened to her.
Being a Big Sister has brought unexpected fun into my life. I love seeing animated movies with her, sipping hot cocoa like a kid, "dishing" about her friends and school, and listening to her dreams for the future. To anyone who's thinking about becoming a Big Sister or Big Brother, I guarantee it's the absolute best thing you'll do this year!
Making a difference to even one child counts!
Donna M. Riege (now Bularaz)
Postscript: April, 2012 Donna's Little Sister, Pearl, and Donna were matched for almost 11 years and maintain a fabulous friendship as they most likely will forever. Pearl is completing her sophomore year at UW - Parkside with the goal of someday being a Child Psychologist. With her current, cumulative GPA of 4.0; we bet she makes it!
As I finish my 40th year of teaching and move on to other things, I feel it is important for me to express gratitude for the programs I felt were important and beneficial for my students at Sheridan School. I've worked with several generations of families there and it is sad that for some families nothing changes. My husband and I connected with Big Brothers and Big Sisters many years ago. I was a Big Sister for a year . My husband was a Big Brother to a child with whom we still have some contact. That situation almost ended up being a foster care situation but we were in the middle of an adoption at that time. He is an adult with his own family now. Sheridan students in general are needy. The majority of kids are low income and with that often comes many other problems. We have some very sad situations. Our kids have a great need to connect with someone positive and caring and your program makes a difference.
The last few years I've seen what a great thing Lunch Buddies are. By the way, almost ALL my students want a Lunch Buddy. Lunch Buddies are heroes to them. Having someone special come to see just him or just her is powerful. Please express how grateful teachers are for these people. I admire the ones who come back year after year even though he/she is working with a child whose future seems dim. Assure them that we DON'T know the future. I've seen lots of wonderful surprises throughout the years, and some terrible failures in kids we thought were going to do great. The potential is there for every kid. Please express that they shouldn't give up. I know that some of the regular Big Brothers and Big Sisters must be discouraged at times. They need to know that they may be a child's only normal connection with the world.
Sandy Jakum/Sheridan School