Meet current Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana Board President, Eric Lis, as he talks about mentoring and how being a Big helped him get in shape (for a while).
Let’s kick this off by talking about mentoring and what it means to you.
Throughout their life, everyone has a couple of people that have made a difference – a coach, a teacher – someone other than your parents. Others who have said something that stuck with you. For me, I remember Coach Krizkie. He talked about having a strong work ethic, accountability, and simply about life lessons that you really don’t know you’re learning at the time they’re being shared.
When did you realize those were mentoring and learning moments in your life?
Well, you see, I’m slow to learn. As I got older, I reflected on those occasions parallel to where I am today. It’s remembering those moments today that I realize they were teaching and learning moments. The things that stay with you – those are the moments I was learning.
When did you hear about Big Brothers Big Sisters?
I went to Ball State University and there was an event on campus. I never followed up on it at the time, but it stayed with me as something I thought I would want to do. Then, when I got married, I brought it up to my wife about eights years ago and she thought it was an interesting idea – that’s what got me back into it. Our Little Brother has now graduated from the program.
So why did you want to get back into it?
Theses Littles don’t always have those two or three people, like I had my coach, to give them that outside perspective.
What do think a Little values in having that outside perspective?
They’re inquisitive. The kids want someone to listen to them. As a Big, it’s hard to get rolling in the beginning, but then your relationship grows and you begin to open up to each other. The response I often gave my Little surprised him, things like, “maybe you should have taken more responsibility for that,” or, “maybe your mom WAS right about that situation.”
Responsible like, get your self up and ready in the mornings?
Right, just like that. Be responsible. We talked about that a lot. I didn’t always commiserate.
What other attributes come up when you think about mentoring your Little?
Confidence is another element to think about when you’re a mentor. Some of these kids lack confidence and Big Brothers Big Sisters offers events and situations that help build confidence. For instance, mini triathlon training. I trained with my Little and it was great for us. And swimming lessons! My Little didn’t know how to swim, so we taught him how to swim.
What did that swimming lesson do for him?
He was afraid of the water at first and then, before he knows it, he’s swimming a full lap and getting better and better.
What did that experience do for you? Well, I got in shape! I also felt accomplished in helping him do this. He also got a bike out of the deal.
Oh really, a bike?
It was part of a deal the JCC sponsored. All of the participating kids who completed the training received a bike. It was an amazing program. Big Brothers Big Sisters is really great about sharing events and programs in the city that you can do with your Little, and this was one of them.
What else did you do with your Little?
We learned how to rock climb together. That’s something I never would have done. It was more about him than me. We focused on what he wanted to do and be, and how I could help him get there. That being said, I probably got more out of this whole experience than he did. He was a youth elixir for me and I was able to share my knowledge and what I’ve learned in my life.
As someone else looks to be a Big, what advice would you give them? It’s not that complicated. Think back to your own life and who really sticks out with you now that you would consider a mentor and it’s the same thing. Listen to your Little, show them another perspective, and help them see the opportunities that exist in the world. Help open their eyes. That’s all they want and need.
As Chief Marketing Officer for Apparatus, Raquel leads the company’s marketing strategy and initiatives. Prior to joining Apparatus, Raquel spent 13 years running Silver Square, a full-service marketing firm she founded. Raquel serves on the Board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana and the Metropolitan Indianapolis Public Broadcasting Board.