· Leadership Development

My ten years as a Big Brother

By Ingram Howard

NASHVILLE, Tenn.––My story begins in Ingram April 2008; that is when I first met Christopher and his mother, Julie. He was 8 years old; I was 61.

His dad left the family when Christopher was 3-years old, and he had not maintained contact since then.

I had just completed and passed all the requirements and background checks with the Middle Tennessee Chapter of Big Brothers/Big Sisters (BBBS).

Hesitant beginning

I remember thinking on that April day, “What have I got myself into now?”

Christopher probably was asking the same question.

I had some assurance in the fact my sister had mentored a young girl through Youth Villages in Memphis. Other UM Men, who served as big brothers, also encouraged me.

But, Christopher and I were now a match; I was the “big” and he was the “little.”

I had no idea we would still be together 10 years later

Two options

BBBS offers two ways to interact with your match: 1) Site-based matches meet at a school, and 2) community-based matches allow for once-a-week activities in places and times of mutual convenience.

I was fortunate to be in a community-match relationship, giving me more time to get to know Christopher.

Learning to fish

I like sports of all kinds, especially baseball. I imagined Christopher and I would share the same interest. However, I soon realized he was not into sports. His real interest was fishing. Therefore, I spent many afternoons by creeks or lakes where Christopher taught me how to fish. I learned a lot, but Christopher will always be a better fisherman than me.

Our “fishing time” became our “sharing time” when we talked about how school was going and family events.

A vanishing concern

I knew Christopher needed our one-on-one time since he did not have a father in his home, but I still wondered what, if any, kind of impact I was having on his life. That concern vanished when Christopher was in high school. A BBBS match specialist told me Christopher said, “I consider Ingram to be my adopted father now.”

I had no more misgivings about our relationship.

Even though we came from different backgrounds (I grew up on a dairy farm), we enjoyed each other’s company and we learned from one another.

Honor commitments

People asked me how I was able to spend at least one hour (usually three to four) hours a week with Christopher. My answer was simple, “You don’t do something else once you have made the decision to be with your “little”. One of the teaching tools I instilled in Christopher was to be responsible and honor your commitments; another was to respect each other’s opinions

As he grew older, our choice of activities was the result of a mutual decision. We could be honest with one another and express our feelings; that was something that was difficult for Christopher to do at first. He was reluctant to trust anyone when I first met him. Over time, I became not only his friend, but a confidant as well.


Christopher, his mother, and I attended a BBBS graduation ceremony on May 3. Christopher was one of 20 high school seniors graduating from the program. Three weeks later, I attended his high school graduation. He was the second of 175 Sycamore High School students to walk across a stage at Austin Peay State University campus to receive his diploma.

Christopher is now 18 and I am 71. We are no longer paired as a BBBS “big” and “little”. However, we are solid friends and I expect our friendship to continue for many years to come.

I am truly thankful for the experiences we shared together, and I’m glad I did not pass on this opportunity.



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