I am on record as saying my big brother Ed is one of my biggest heroes and I always wondered what it would be like to bear the responsibility of having a younger sibling.
I had a chance to find out when I was in my late thirties. I was living in Norman, Oklahoma and I went for a very brief interview at Big Brothers/Big Sisters and within two weeks I was on my way over to the very modest three-room trailer which housed my “Little.”
Chino was a descendant of the Choctaw Indian Tribe and his domicile was parked illegally on the side of a highway where he lived with his mom and his little sister Sari.
I was working as a GM and had a full staff of Assistant Managers to run our restaurant. I was determined to make a difference in this young man’s life and I had the time, resources and desire to make it happen.
Our first outing was spent in the library where I started Chino on a quest to read about his Native American heritage. It was a really cool transformation to see this little guy swell with pride when he spoke of different battles and chiefs while he learned of his past.
He was 8 years old and full of energy. I only had him on Wednesday nights and I was worn out by evening’s end.
I spent time talking with his mother and she was an amazing woman, working three jobs and paying to take care of her own mother.
Chino’s real name was Evector (bonus points if you’ve ever heard that name before) and his Cherokee name translated to” landslide.”
I learned the anxiety you get when being totally responsible for another’s life. It is the closest I have to understanding what it must be like to have a child.
We would hit the gym on some nights and I showed Chino how to make it rain from the rafters. I was a short-term assistant coach for his youth basketball team and it was one of the great experiences of many, in my life.
After five months, I got a call at the restaurant from his mother.
“Is everything alright? How are the kids?” I worried.
“I’m sorry to bother you at work, but Chino asked me to call you. He wanted me to see if you could possibly go to his school at 7 o’clock.” His mom sounded serious.
“Sure, I’ll be there, I said, as I gathered my co-workers for the dinner rush.
I pulled up to the elementary school and it was lit up (so the grownups didn’t get lost). I made my way to Chino’s third-grade classroom and when I walked through the door, it seemed like all hell broke loose. Popping streamers and blinking lights went off and I was greeted with twenty-five screaming kids with their parents in tow.
Chino walked out front as the room quieted.
“This is my hero. My Big Brother Mark. He has been my brother for five months and he has taught me a lot. He taught me responsibility and how to play basketball.
I love him like he was my real brother.”
Water works. Hell, I’m crying right now as I remember it and yes, I do have chills.