A couple years ago now, my husband and I decided to volunteer. We had always volunteered for things in church or for various causes. We did this here and there, and quickly found that you never regret the time you spend volunteering.
But more and more, my volunteering had become routine. I baked. Anyone need a casserole? A cake? A treat? Okay, I’ll bake it. I do like to cook and bake, but I wanted to do more.
And my husby… well, he got to arrange chairs or lift heavy objects. That’s what happens sometimes when you volunteer. And, that’s a helpful thing to do.
But, we wanted to do more.
So, a couple years ago we volunteered with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. I was going to volunteer for a Little Sister and my husby was going to volunteer for a Little Brother, until they said they like it when couples volunteer together for one kid. Okay, we thought. That might be fun. And you know what? It is.
Oh sure, I pictured me volunteering with a little girl at first, and like many things in life, God had other plans. And as usual, He was right. The little boy they matched us with is just the funniest, coolest, silliest, sweetest…
And yes, I could go on. He’s a blessing. Oh sure, he’s a kid, and all kids have their challenging days, but most of the time, he’s just nothing but a joy. And when he’s crabby or in a mood… he’s still a joy. Because he is. Because all children are.
A couple years into this Big Brothers/Big Sisters thing, and I’ve realized more and more how awful my upbringing was. The sneers they gave me. The slaps across the face. The shaming. Name calling. Hitting. Taking money from me. And on and on and on.
It wasn’t just during certain times. It wasn’t discipline. It wasn’t when I was “bad” or when things were stressful. It was All. The. Time.
Daily, I was afraid. There was no safe place for me. And then, I had to act as if it was all just fine. I had to put a big smile on my face and pretend that it all was great, because if I didn’t do that, things would be even worse when we got home.
I had forgiven it all long ago. Decades now. It wasn’t easy. It was as hard as anything I have ever done to move past the hurt, the patterns, the shame, and the lies. The lies were especially hurtful, because when you finally get the courage to tell the truth, it is shocking to see people try and change it so they don’t have to face it themselves.
But that is their issue. I can only deal with mine. And I have. The weight of all that pain from my childhood had lifted, sort of. In the way that it can. In a way that allows you to move forward and leave the past behind. This amazing gift of forgiveness allows you to move forward and find this little patch of happiness that is all yours. That no one, not the ones who hit or taunted you or the ones that refuse to admit the truth, can touch. It’s yours.
So you live in that little patch of happy place, and you move away from the past, and it’s all cool. And you put out of your mind, all the ugliness that used to define your life.
I moved on. Made a life for myself. Found peace.
And in that peace, I am able to volunteer with this child and call up memories of being young. It reminds me of how awful it was for those people to do the things they did to me.
Our Little Brother has turned nine now, and I can’t even believe how fast time has gone with him. When he was seven he talked a mile a minute and made up stories about his secret (invisible) lab. He has a typical, happy, little boy heart filled with kindness and innocence. And in spending time with him I have rediscovered the truth that I was once that innocent and small, too.
And I see, despite all the hurt those people from the past tried to lay on my shoulders, I am free from it. I am not like them. I would never be like them, and I can’t even imagine doing those things, and instead, I simply appreciate the blessing of spending time with this child.
As a Big Brothers/Big Sisters volunteer, one of the coolest things is just doing ordinary moments. These are the times we have the best conversation. Last night was his b’day. He thought my idea of sticking a cupcake on top of a regular cake and then decorating it with wild candles was silly and hilarious. I asked him if he had any expectations about being this new age, and of course he was ready with a huge list of things he wanted to accomplish. I hope all his b’day dreams and wishes come true, for this year and every one after.
Happy birthday, Dear Little Brother.