When I first met my little Sister, Mayra, I thought she didn’t like me. She didn’t initiate any conversations unless asked a direct question, and more often than not, she answered in a monosyllable. She didn’t appear to look forward to future activities with me, seeing more resigned than enthusiastic about the prospect. If I’m honest, my ego was a little bruised as I had always fancied myself a brilliant communicator and a fun person to be with. And now this 16 year-old girl was making me feel like she’d rather get a root canal than spend time with me.
So I called [the staff at Girls Rising], and danced around the idea, but never saying the words, that maybe Mayra should be paired up with someone else, maybe I’m not Big Sister material, maybe the programs works for other people, just not me. [The staff] listened to everything O had to say and when I was done, she said, “Please don’t give up on Mayra. Maybe everyone in her life has done that but you could be the one person who doesn’t”.
It has been well over 2 years since that conversation. Mayra and I love hanging out. I have had the opportunity to introduce her to things she’s never seen or done before and, through her eyes, they became fresh experiences for me too. What are our conversations like today? They are goofy and serious, whimsical and sad, silly and academic. And sometimes we are just quiet, neither of us rushing to fill the silence. With no other person in my life an I am able to appreciate the layers of communication evoked in simple silence; the student teaching the teacher. Am I glad that I did not “give up” on Mayra? More to the point, I am so glad she did not give up on me.