As I arrived at Zion’s front door per our regular routine, I wasn’t surprised to see his tablet in his hands. He’s always playing with his iPod or pulling something up on his school tablet. I would normally chat with Charlene, his grandmother, for a moment, but she was in bed, so I waited outside as he shut the front door followed me out to the car with the tablet. He said, “here… read this.”
It’s not every day that the little things we do or the people we care about jump up at us to let us know just how much we mean to them. I was brought to tears by what I read on that tablet screen. The following is a letter that Zion wrote to me and a response that I’ve crafted for him, which I will share with him today:
The first day I met you, I was so nervous to talk to you. It seemed like we had a connection, and I have learned a lot about you in the five years that I’ve been with you.
I am writing this letter to thank you for all that you have done for me. In the past five years, you have helped me become a better person. I’ve done some not so good things and I’ve learned from those mistakes. All those times where you’ve gotten on me about stuff, I thought you were just being mean. Now I realize that you were not being mean, you were trying to help me be a better person.
There have been a lot of times where you could have said, “we are done,” but you are still sticking with me, and I just wanted to thank you for that. There have been a couple of times where I have come in your car and started to cry where you helped me back up. I also remember the time when my grandma was sick, and you waited for someone to help her. You even said that you would take her to the hospital if no one came, and I love you for that.
I remember that the first day I met you, I was super nervous too. I thought, “I can hardly manage my own life, how am I supposed to be a good role model for someone else?!” Someone (in fact, many “someones”) gave me the gift of friendship and personal advocacy that have transformed my life, so I felt it was my calling to try to give that back to someone else. And there you were, 10 years old and 80lbs soaking wet.
You and I are both “men of few words,” to put it simply. We are both naturally shy, and even though it took some time, we became best friends and we’re so comfortable with each other now. I’m grateful for that.
I’m writing this letter in response to yours to thank YOU for all you’ve done for me to make ME a better person. It’s hard to believe that five years have gone by. I want you to know that my life is brighter and more meaningful thanks to you. I truly believe that the meaning of one’s life is an equation of the sum total of those who touch our lives and of those whose lives we touch. Thanks to you, I have become more comfortable in many situations. I’m not afraid to stand up for you or others or for what I believe. You’ve given me courage and a friendship forged out of trust and overcoming obstacles together.
Yes, you have certainly done some “not so good things,” but you’ve also impressed me with your selflessness and improved decision-making skills in the past year, and you’ve definitely learned from your mistakes which takes maturity. I’m also proud of you for your perseverance with school. I know it’s not always easy, but I see you working hard to graduate on time. I’m also excited to see you realize your dream of becoming a firefighter through the Fire Explorers program! I know that if you apply yourself, you will be successful. Never sell yourself short – set your mind to a goal and believe that you can accomplish it. Don’t forget that you have people in your life who are there to support you along the way.
I feel very honored that you are mature enough to share your feelings with me - sometimes, I think it’s difficult for people, especially men, to share how they feel with each other.
On that note, I want you to know that I love you, Zion. You’re my little brother – I’ll always be here for you.
Thank you for what you do to allow Big Brothers Big Sisters to make Zion’s and my match as strong as it is. Both of our lives are richer because of what BBBSL’s donors make possible.