Big Sister Ashley Brito & Little Sister Kaelissa
At Big Sister, we create sustained meaningful relationships between Big and Little Sisters of diverse racial, social, and economic backgrounds. Some of these matches are between people with similar backgrounds, most are not. To enrich these relationships and enhance understanding, our staff provides culturally competent training, coaching, and support. They listen unconditionally; they offer ideas and suggestions; they are compassionate and non-judgmental; they build bridges to foster understanding.
We know that regardless of how much we work to build those bridges, others want to build barriers. What can we do as an organization of 60 staff members, 1,500 Big Sisters, 28 board members—and as a community—to counter the hate and vitriol that is filtering into the lives of our young girls which runs counter to our values as an organization?
Change always begins within. Even when we don’t think they are aware, our children are listening and learning from the words we choose to use and how we express our thoughts and feelings. They are watching the actions we take, or choose not to take. We may not be able to make large scale changes, or understand those who hate others who don’t look like them, or share their background, but we can make a difference in our own lives and, for our children. So whether you are a Big Sister, a contributor, a champion of our work, or all three, you have an important role to play to ensure that girls are growing up feeling love, compassion and empathy for others.
We must truly listen with an open heart to how our girls are feeling. We need to let them express themselves no matter how difficult it is to hear the fear, anger or sadness they may carry. When we create a space for girls to speak their minds, without judgment, we are helping them build their own voice and their confidence. As adults, we also need to speak up and let children know that we disavow hate and believe that everyone in our country has a right to be here. We need to demonstrate compassion and empathy in our own relationships even when we may not agree. Our children need to know that we will not turn to violence to resolve conflict. We seek understanding and are resolved to create a world where our children grow up feeling loved.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has a guide on their website that we found helpful as we look for ways to work together to create a more compassionate world, for all of us.