Shortly after starting college I enrolled in a mentor/mentee program and was paired with a 7 year old boy, Jack. When I met Jack he was timid and reserved, and took no interest in me. He didn’t’ speak to me the first two times we arranged to meet, and wouldn’t participate in the activities I’d planned for us. The program I was part of suggested maybe the two of us weren’t a good match, and offered to find another kid with whom I’d be more compatible. However, I’m a bit too stubborn to cut and run like that, so I persisted with Jack and our non-existent relationship.
The third time we met up the two of us walked to a park and sat at a bench together. I’d purchased a Spiderman comic (thanks to his teacher for the tip off) and placed it between the two of us. This was my ultimate power play, I was convinced I could get him to crack and warm up to me. After a few minutes of silence, I grabbed the comic and began flipping through it, my face fixed on Jack’s.
“You can’t read that” he pointed out. This is the very first thing he ever said to me.
“I know, it’s a shame,” I retorted. “You could help read it to me, though.”
That was the beginning of our friendship. Just like that, he came to my side of the bench and read the comic to me, page by page. He described the illustrations to me in vivid detail, his voice excited and full of wonder. Over the past three years, he and I have grown incredibly close. I went to his 10th birthday party yesterday and helped his mom (single parent family) manage 20 or so of his friends. It was an absolute blast.
When I went to his 8th Birthday, the first one I knew him for, I dressed up as Spiderman, renting a very uncomfortable spandex suit (you have to hope/imagine the ones they give those actors are infinitely more comfortable). I remember how elated he was that I’d shown up, let alone dressed as his favorite fictional character. Of course, he’s now a little too old and cool for that sort of thing, but it’s an experience I’ll never forget, to have made his day like that.
Mentoring is something I wasn’t sure I’d have an aptitude for when I started off with it. My experience with children, up until then, was fairly limited. However, my time with Jack has been a life changing and eye opening experience I would highly recommend to everyone else. As trite as it may sound, I really do think of the kid as a little brother, and love him in the same way as I do any of my sisters.