I had trouble sleeping the other night and began reading about former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Oddly enough, he referred to how important it was in his life for his father to spend time with him, while they worked under the hood of a car doing auto repairs. It made me think about the importance of a responsible adult in the life of a child. Steve was adopted, and his adoptive father took time to do this simple task with him, something he referred to after he had gained great success in his life. In other words, it was very important to him. And it had nothing to do with computers or wealth or a university education.


One of the most rewarding experiences of my life was becoming a “Big Sister” to my “Little Sister” Julia eight years ago. Julia was only nine years old at the time. When we first met, we were both pretty nervous. She was a little thing and pretty shy. Deep down, I didn’t really think any little girl would want to spend time with me because, frankly, I find my own life pretty dull. As Julia and I got to know each other, she simply became like one of my kids.  She would call and say, “Hey, let’s hang out.” I came to realize that a sense of normalcy was what she seemed to appreciate.


So, when she would come over, we would bake brownies or plant flowers or walk over to the local park. One weekend, we visited three pumpkin patches just to pick out what we really wanted to get for fall decorations at both our houses. It actually became therapy for ME! It made me slow down and listen to the thoughts, fears, and concerns of a little girl who had been raised much differently than me. 


As an active member of the community, I appreciate the opportunities I have to meet people in difficult circumstances. With Julia, I wondered why I was adding one more thing to my plate, but I really felt compelled to become a Big Sis.


It turned out that I got as much out of our relationship as Julia did. I learned about poverty and how difficult every day could be. Lunch money and peer pressure and sibling rivalry were common topics. I attended her school programs and sat with her mother and took pride in her accomplishments. When we met, Julia had never had a baked potato before, or eaten at a restaurant with cloth napkins, or had electric hot rollers in her hair. We experienced the smallest things together. 


I would encourage you to become involved in whatever way you can to be a mentor or role model for young people. There are hundreds of children waiting for to have someone to listen to them and spend time with them. Young boys especially need father figures in their lives, now more than ever before. Long before I ran for public office, destiny planned my relationship with Julia. I needed to get outside myself and see life through the eyes of a child who struggles. I needed a broader view of what life is like for many children in Ohio. 


Today, Julia is a beautiful 17 year old who is doing well in school and has dreams and plans all her own. I’m a better person for having her in my life. So, I encourage you to consider reaching out to organizations in your community to see how you can have a positive impact on the lives of our youth.


 

 
 
 
  
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