Ryan McDaniel’s first experience in Big Brothers Big Sisters was with an 11-year-old boy from south Dallas named Sherman.
“He was poor. His father was incarcerated. His mother was in and out of different issues relative to drugs,” McDaniel said. “He couldn’t read, and he was getting pushed through the public school system down there. On top of that, he had been shot, supposedly on accident, when he was 4 years old.”
On their first outing, McDaniel took Sherman bowling. Sherman bowled one frame and spent the rest of the day watching bigger kids play video games, oblivious to his Big Brother.
McDaniel was irritated, then hurt, figuring he had blown his chance at mentoring this child. Then, on his drive home, McDaniel had what he called “an epiphany.”
“Sherman really had no expectation of me ever coming back or he was ever going to see me again. So why would he devote an ounce of time to getting to know me?” McDaniel said. “What difference does it make if I’m there or not? I won’t be there tomorrow.”
The experience taught McDaniel the value of two tenets related to Big Brothers Big Sisters: One, it takes patience and commitment to influence a child faced with adversity and trauma.
Two? “All of them have some defense mechanism that protects them from whatever trauma happened,” McDaniel said. “You don’t really know what the magic code is to help that facade go away. That’s kind of the point of the program. You’re not here to fix the problem.
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