Growing up is hard for a kid, especially when you’re the only male in the household with divorced parents.

My father was/is a positive figure in my life, but as a navigator in the Air Force, was overseas throughout a large part of my childhood.

My mother signed me up for a Big Brother through the local YMCA so that I could have a more regular male influence in my life.  I was 8 years old.  When I met my Big Brother, Mike, the mediator asked him to tell me what he does for a living.  His response was simple: “I work with computers!”.

As I later learned, Mike not only worked with computers, but was actually was one of the seven founding officers at FedEx, mastermind behind the Memphis hub, and inventor of their bar code tracking system.  But mostly, Mike was a world class interviewer, and each week, I found myself the subject of his interviews, over a hike, skiing, while working on science projects…. What I learned from Mike is that if you want to make someone feel special or valuable, ask a lot of genuine questions.

Of course, business people will tell you that this is a great strategy to get a sale. I have a hard time with that motivation. Mike, was of course an amazing sales person, but he really knew how to make a person feel genuinely valuable.  I’m thankful to Mike for making me feel like I have a place in this world. And he gave me the confidence needed to survive all throughout life’s various challenges.

We are still in touch to this day.  And now, as a parent, I just hope to be able to offer half of the love that I felt from my Big Brother.  Mike is still a big part of my life today.

If you’re in a position to befriend a local child, I highly recommend it. It’s hard to understand the rich value that your friendship might make to a child who is not sure where they belong in this big, complicated world.  Or, you can make a donation here.