Nathan is a former Little Brother who participated in the program with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati. In recognition of the impact that his Big Brother Mike had on his life, Nathan chose to write the following op-ed for him, to coincide with National Mentoring Month.
It ran in a number of publications, including The Cincinnati Enquirer and The Marion Star, among others. Nathan provides his insight into the amazing kind of impact that a mentor can have.
I met my Big Brother Mike Hardig when I was 10 years old. My mom was a single parent and I was an only child, so she thought having a “Big Brother” would be a great thing for me. She was right, and Mike was a great Big Brother—I only wish I’d known that at the time.
Now that I’m an adult and can look back, Mike was the important male figure I needed in my life. At first, he was just the guy who would pick me up on weekend afternoons and take me to sporting events—most of them I had never experienced before. It was always a new adventure (honestly, I don’t know how he came up with the things he did!). Then, there started to be structure in my world—a world that had very little of it, even if that structure was only on the Saturday or Sunday we were together.
January is National Mentoring Month, and I’m sharing my experience of having a mentor as an example of why we all need to help kids in our community.
I am convinced today that without Mike’s guidance—and that structure—I would’ve made some poor choices in my teens. I didn’t always make the best choices, but they most certainly would have been worse. Mike was a successful salesman at the time and that allowed me to see I could make something of myself if I put my mind to it. He led by example. Other than Mike, the people giving me guidance were friends whose guidance could be problematic, because they didn’t know any better themselves.
Mike and I stopped getting together when I was about 14. I remember feeling I was too old to have a Big Brother, but know now I just didn’t appreciate what I had. I hope he’d be proud to know that I’ve been fortunate enough to continue down a career path similar to his, that I’ve been working at Total Quality Logistics for 14 years , and am now the Vice President of Sales,
Adults in the community must step up to help kids. When kids have a Big Brother or Big Sister, they gain a friend, a confidant, a partner to help guide them through some of the toughest times in those important early years.
If we can set them up for success, show them how do be successful, then they see they can achieve it. We all need help in life and mentoring a child pays dividends beyond measure.
I know my Big Brother still lives in Cincinnati, but I’ve been hesitant to contact him because I worry he believes I didn’t appreciate the time he spent with me, the lessons he taught me. So I’ll say this: Mike Hardig, I sincerely appreciate all the sacrifices you made to be my Big Brother. I only wish I’d been a better Little Brother, but believe it or not, you had a huge hand in my success in life after we went our separate ways. For that, I thank you. Your sacrifices made a lifelong impression.