There was a time, many moons ago, when I was a year out of college and didn’t have a lot of commitments or responsibilities. The fact that I can’t quite imagine that now means that it must have been a really long time ago! I was young, single and carefree and had a low-stress job that I really didn’t like. One day I got it in my mind that I would try to step out and get involved in something worthwhile, (I should have known that this would be a problem from the beginning, for it often seems that whenever I try to step out and “get involved,” it usually comes back to bite me), so I signed up to be a Big Brother. As in, the official Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. I already was a real big brother to my younger sister, but we’d both grown up and I’d already squandered away those years where she actually looked up to me. This was my big chance to have an influence and help a kid who didn’t have a male role model.
With great enthusiasm, I filled out all of the paperwork, had the live interview, the case manager talked to all my references and even came to my apartment and talked to my roommate. There was no doubt in my mind that in a few weeks, I’d be helping to mold the life of some young impressionable kid and imparting to him all of my wisdom. That was the plan at least. Until I was rejected. I’d been deemed unfit to be a Big Brother.
I had completely forgotten about this experience from years ago until I was watching an episode of the new show on TNT, Men of A Certain Age. (Great show, if you haven’t watched it, starring Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond), Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) and Andre Braugher (Homicide), as forty-somethings that each have somewhat lost their way and the humorous interactions that they have in this dramedy.) In last week’s show, Terry (Bakula) applies to be a Big Brother, goes through the similar excited phase that I did, but then is shocked to learn that he was denied. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as he played out the very same feelings that I’d experienced – anger, insult, paranoia and overall astonishment. I fully remember thinking, exactly as he did, that with all the boys out there that need a role model, how could I not be good enough to help somebody? The kicker is that BB won’t tell you the reason for your denial. Not even a hint. Which is extremely frustrating, as the natural reaction is to want to know, even for constructive self-improvement, the cause for this rejection.
Somehow, I found a way to pick myself up from my feelings of self-doubt and move on with my life, albeit without a Little Brother. (I’m thinking I may be on to a great new unmet business need – support groups for men rejected as Big Brothers. It could be an ironic twist that in the process of trying to best help struggling youth, BB sends countless adults spiraling towards the gutter in a cloud of confusion, self doubt and despair…) In retrospect, I can laugh at the experience, and my rejection was probably for the best as I shortly moved away and started a job in Manhattan. Only BB will know for sure what the reasons were for not wanting me to help guide some young life (or my roommate, but he denies any negative words!), but I’m making up for lost time with my three young boys now.
As I took a break from writing this, I cranked up some iTunes music on my computer speakers and burst into the next room where the boys and Mommy were reading a book and started up a little family dance party. As I held a boy in each arm and bounced and twirled around the room, I couldn’t help but revel in the fact that regardless of what did or didn’t work out back then, I’m right where I belong now as a dad, raising two big brothers and two little brothers of our own. Some things are worth waiting for.