Stan and Nathan were matched when Nathan was 9. Now in his 30s Nathan still considers Stan a friend and role model.
They came to visit us and share their story… enjoy!
To Stan, “What was it about Big Brothers that made you want to get involved and give your time?”
Stan: “Our family has always been involved in volunteering and my Mom always talked about helping other people, who – for whatever reason – needed some support. Being an immigrant, she did a lot of volunteer work with immigrants new to Canada right through most of her career. I have a younger sister and she’s great, but at the same time growing up my next door neighbor had two older brothers, my neighbor on the other side had two younger brothers, and when I first heard about Big Brothers and the concept behind it I kept thinking “it would be kind of neat to have that experience…” the little brother idea stuck. It was a lot of fun growing up around those guys, and it has been a lot of fun growing up with Nathan too. My first year of University was in Fredericton, and I wasn’t able to volunteer as a Big Brother there because I was only going to be around for 8 months. Then I ended up at my parents for a couple of years, then when I left Toronto and came to Brantford and settled in, that’s when I decided it was time to get involved.”
To Stan, “Did it end up being what you first expected?”
Stan: “At the time I was told to spend four hours a week with my Little, but it wasn’t as strict as a thought it would be. There were weeks where we just couldn’t get together. Every week we would talk on the phone. Had I known that they were going to be more flexible and a little relaxed on the time I would have done it sooner, because that “4 hours a week” is big. There are any number of jokes I could make about men and commitment but we’re going to stay away from them… You know, I was starting my career, I hadn’t been married for long, but again 4 hours seemed like a lot of time. I didn’t really know anyone in Brantford, except my in-laws, and I was getting involved in a couple of different things, meeting wonderful new people, and I had a lot going on. So again the time commitment wasn’t what I expected, but it worked out really well. As far as the overall experience was, I would do it all over again with Nathan in a heartbeat. The experience I had with Nathan, to me, was just chumming around. We played hockey, we went to the Cainsville Flea market to race remote control cars. Those things were fun to do. I really enjoyed it.”
To Nathan, “How was the experience for you as a child?
Do you remember what it was first like being matched with Stan?”
Nathan: “I was not happy with my Mom right away! But after meeting Stan, and hanging out we became friends out of the whole thing. That’s why we still talk today. It wasn’t like “oh, he’s trying to be my Dad”. He was just someone to hang out with – an adult male figure that I could look up to. I remember helping him with volunteer events, we went canoeing, one time we did a scavenger hunt, stuff like that. It was a lot of fun, to spend time with someone that isn’t your Mom or your sister!”
To Nathan, “What did Stan teach you that you still carry with you today?”
Nathan: “One of the things I still carry with me today is when you first meet someone – you look them in the eye, say “Hello” and give them a good, firm hand shake. “You don’t hand anyone a dead fish!” Every time I meet someone I remember that! I mean, you don’t try and hurt them or anything by squeezing too hard, but make a good impression.”
Stan: “That’s funny. I just said that to someone two weeks ago! I remember my dad saying that to me…”
To Stan, “What did Nathan teach you?”
Stan: “I think, he certainly taught me patience. At first he was not forthcoming in conversation. Most kids at that age are pretty quiet I think. It’s a process, they put us together and we didn’t know each other. Obviously you have to get to know each other and that relationship grows. It was that “ok, this is going to take time” lesson. It reminded me of that change in perspective, that what I see is different from what he sees. I want to do this activity – do I think he is really going to enjoy it? Maybe the opera isn’t right for Nathan! Also there was that lesson of commitment that grew stronger, someone more than just a buddy that depended on me – what do I have to do to make this work for his sake. Even my wife commented on it… my going out of my way to make time for Nathan when I would blow her off for lunch! All those little things about relationships that you don’t really think about. That realization that “I need to be an example!”
To Nathan, “What would you say to the parents in our community
who’s children could benefit from having a “Big”?
Nathan: “What it showed me is that it’s important for me to be there, and take the time out of everything else that’s going on to spend time with my daughter. I may not have time to volunteer right now, but I know that the time I spend with her is more important than anything I can buy her. So for any parent thinking about signing up their child, it’s about the one-on-one time, someone to have to look up to, a mentor to talk to that’s not your parent. You need that sometimes.”
To Nathan, “What would you say to potential volunteers considering becoming a “Big”?
Nathan: “You can end up having a lifelong friend. You may start with something that you think or feel is just a “volunteer” opportunity – something to do to help out. But you can really connect.”
Stan: “Along that same line when I think about volunteering, and going back to my mother encouraging me to be involved, I’ve done municipal things: heritage committee, tourism advisory committee, economic development committee, Brant waterways committee, Jaycees – all great things that affect the community. Without a doubt, doing this was the best volunteer experience I had! Nathan and I have stayed in touch. We don’t see each other a lot, but when I see those pictures on Facebook of the stuff he’s doing and the family he has, I think to myself “he’s a great guy”. My wife’s a teacher and you hear stories about kids that don’t have that male, or female, influence in their home life, and then I see Nathan, and what a great father and husband he is, and I’m just so proud of him! It’s very cool. When you look at the mentoring programs – it’s an hour or two a week but the impact you can have on that child’s life is huge!”