The application was daunting. Eight pages of questions. Some were basic such as name and address, while others called for some thought, like: “What are you afraid of?” I could’ve answered “clowns” or with a more philosophical response, “Not living up to my full potential”. Which type of reply were they looking for? What would put me in the best light? Other requirements included three references, a background check and fee to process it, and that was just phase one! If I passed that hurdle, I’d be asked to sit down with an adviser for a two-hour interview. Then would come the training and finally the match.
This opportunity had been on my “When I Finally Have Free Time” list since I became a full-time employee, way back in my post-college days. Now I finally had the time. The description of the ideal candidate was one who would be a good listener, culturally sensitive, modeled good behavior, respected boundaries and had a car. Basically, someone who was a good friend with wheels. That part sounded easy enough, but then, self-doubt crept in. “Can I really commit to a few hours every week for an entire year?” “How will we spend our time together? And scariest of all, “What if the child doesn’t like me?”
After two months of waiting for my background clearance, I met my Match Support Specialist. A lovely, serene and humorous person, she asked about my life and work experiences and to tell her about my mentors.
I first talked about my mother. From her, I learned that I didn’t have to have a traditional “woman’s” role or job. I didn’t even have to live in my hometown after high school. With a whole world out there she explained, I had choices.
Another mentor was my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Carman. From him, I learned that I could express myself through writing stories. I also became more confident in speaking up in class, as I knew someone was listening and that I had something to say.
When my interview ended, I was greenlighted to phase two and joined a handful of others for training. We discussed situations we might find ourselves in. “What would you do if your mentee said hurtful things to you?” and “How would you handle a poorly behaved child?” Having been an elementary school teacher, I realized I was answering questions from a classroom management point of view. Listening to others helped me focus instead on what would be a one-to-one relationship. Expectations, privacy issues, as well as child safety were covered. When the session was over, we left with reference materials and at least for me, a sense that I was more equipped to handle what lie ahead.
The day I got the official call from the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, I beamed. I had a match! But after the initial description of the child, I became a bit concerned.
From my journal: March 13, 2018 Newbury Park, California
“She’s only 7 – almost 8, and I’m in my mid-50s. Will this work? Meeting her, her mom and grandmother after work today…What will they think of me? How will she feel about the age difference? How do I feel about it?”