Fourteen years ago, a 12-year-old boy anxiously sat, waiting to be matched with his Big Brother. Little Brother Thyrone says, “I remember thinking it was a silly and unnecessary idea. How much of a troublemaker was I?” After meeting Ray, and sitting with him for a bit, Thyrone remembers, “I just wanted to hang with him more. There wasn't that authoritative feel—it was just natural.” Big Brother Ray agrees, “I remember having a sense that Thyrone was bright and likeable. I immediately thought that we were a good match for each other, which definitely turned out to be the case.”
Seeing each other every week, Ray and Thyrone did a lot together. “He taught me many things from how to canoe and camp to trying archery and Asian cuisine. We went to the movies a lot, which we now see how that turned out—I'm a filmmaker,” says Thyrone. As Ray reflects, “Sometimes we would spend our time at a coffee shop talking about what was going on in our lives.” There isn’t much that these two haven’t done together as a match.
“We come from, and still occupy, two very different worlds. Ray's a middle-aged, Jewish, married computer engineer. I'm a young, black, independent writer and director, from a Christian family. But we were never afraid to breach those lines and experience something new.” Nowadays, the former Little and Big get together every couple of weeks. Reflecting on this commitment to their friendship, Thyrone shares, “We always email and try to have our regular coffee dates. He's very much family to me, so no matter where I've travelled or gone, I always keep in touch.”
“Having Ray in my life has definitely changed my path completely. I could ask and say anything to him, without judgment, and without worry. Having a relationship where you can learn something every day, even years later from someone like that, is incredible. He's intelligent and completely in tune with the world.” The support and memories that Thyrone got from having a mentor like Ray continue to this day. “Ray did something completely unnecessary and that was introducing me to his family and his world. BBBST gave me a lifelong friend, and as many of the people I grew up with come and go, Ray has remained there through it all. That to me is special.”
Not only did Ray impact Thyrone’s life for the better, but having a Little Brother significantly impacted Ray’s life: “Since I have no children, being Thyrone’s Big Brother gave me the opportunity to experience, vicariously, a young person’s travels through the years that I never would have had otherwise. His experiences as a teen were significantly different from my own, which helped me to revisit some of my own past and gain new insight into what happened during those times. Even more significant is that I have learned a great deal about the challenges that face young people today. It’s given me a new appreciation of the complexities of life both for myself and for them.”
Thyrone articulates that although they are no longer monitored by their match support coordinator, they have always been brothers—and remain so to this day. In agreement Ray says, “We’re not Big and Little anymore, as Thyrone reached the age where our formal friendship, arranged through BBBST, had to end several years ago. I very much appreciate that we have kept in touch since then, and I’ve been able to follow his progress through the years. I’m glad to say that I still learn lots from Thyrone, especially because his interests are so different from mine and also because he is so dedicated to becoming an expert at what he does.”
Big Brother Ray best sums up their friendship by sharing, “Life today is so demanding on one’s time that it is difficult to form lasting friendships with people, other than those in one’s immediate family. The Big-Little relationship has allowed us to do this and I very much appreciate it.”