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PUBLISHED: 5:04 PM on Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Giving thanks for a special friendship

  Amanda Gragert
I recently celebrated my second "anniversary" as an Alaskan - I moved here from Texas in September of 2005 when I was hired to be the editor at Capital City Weekly.

And I'm happy to report that I will soon be celebrating another important anniversary - next month will mark two years since I was "matched!"

I had lived in Juneau only six weeks when a friend invited me to the Big Brothers Big Sisters annual luncheon.

She knew I wasn't going to be a big donor - I'd just graduated from West Texas A&M University that May and I'd moved to Juneau for my first professional job.

But she knew that I could play a role in this great organization.

As we listened to the speaker, my friend whispered to me, "You would be a GREAT Big Sister - have you ever thought about it?"

Well, it was something that I had to think about it.

My family has volunteered to host international students. I'd experienced going through a match process during my senior year in high school. Lauren moved to live with me and my family in Oklahoma. We started out as strangers, yet I ended up with a New Zealand "sister."

But Big Brothers Big Sisters would be different. The weight of it would be on my shoulders - without my family.

I thought about it a lot, but not for too long because the day after the luncheon I filled out the paperwork.

I realized that I was willing to make the commitment because I knew I'd gain so much.

I was told it might take several months to find a match, but to my excitement I was matched in just a few weeks. The first day Alison and I went on an outing together she told me she had been waiting for a big sister since October.

"Not this October," she informed me, "but the October before that. It would have been sooner, but I had to wait for you to move from Texas."

It was in that moment that I knew we were going to be a good match for one another. The past two years have been great, and I truly feel fortunate to have found such a wonderful friend.

When we first met, Alison and I went over some basic things that we liked and didn't like. When we compared our answers we were surprised. Sometimes we still wonder how Big Brothers Big Sisters could have made such a great match.

When Alison and I share our time together, we laugh and have fun. We understand each other - or as she might say - we just get it.

I can't imagine living in Juneau without her. If I've had a rough day, she can make me smile! And everything is always so much better after spending a couple of hours with her.

I have learned all kinds of things about Juneau because of Alison - like where the swimming pool is or about Native culture. She has also taught me how to make little "people" out of pipe cleaners and baking cookies with her is always fun - especially when she gets creative with food coloring.

Two years ago, I didn't realize what an impact being a Big Sister would have on my life. I now know that no matter where life takes me, Alison will always be a part of me.

Being a "Big" isn't just about hanging out with a child for a bit each week. It's about friendship and mentoring youth. The program works, too.

According to www.southeastbigs.org, national research reveals that "Littles" are more likely to show positive behaviors in school and at home than children not matched with a "Big."

You never have to feel as though you're alone once you're matched. The professional and caring staff ensures that the relationships are safe and rewarding for everyone involved. You may just learn something new, as well. Alison and I each experience new things through the experiences we share. This seeing movies, reading, visiting museums, baking cookies or completing an arts and crafts project. Volunteering is easy, as well. There are a variety of programs to fit any schedule.

In this season of giving thanks, I wanted to share this story about a friend I am very grateful to have in my life. I'd also like to thank those in the community who support Big Brothers Big Sisters and other important community organizations. Whether you give monetary gifts or give freely of your time, it is your support that enhances the community.

Amanda Gragert is editor of Capital City Weekly. Contact her at amanda.gragert@capweek.com.


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