Make the Time for What Matters
Be a volunteer. Be a mentor. Be a friend.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona contacted me recently to let me know I had been selected Big Brother of the Year for this great organization. The notice made me start thinking about the moment I was asked to volunteer, and my first thought was, “I don’t have time.” I was state senator with political ambitions. How could I find enough time to mentor a boy? But I learned quickly that was the wrong question to ask. The better question was: how could I NOT make the time?
I met Jesus in 2012 when he was ten. He came from the foster care system and needed positive influences and activities. Not having children of my own, I only had my youth to use as a reference. And I liked to play baseball, ride bicycles and spend time with my friends in the neighborhoods of Maryvale on Phoenix’s westside. So, I put Jesus on a baseball team.
I had no intention of being the coach, but the team needed one and Jesus wanted to play. I didn’t think I had time for this either, but I coach a group of kids from the neighborhood in Laveen every year. Seven years later, I am still coaching the Laveen Major Diamondbacks and we even won a championship.
Now, when Jesus comes with me to the baseball diamond, he’s there to help coach, sharing his knowledge about the game with other kids who look to him as a mentor. Jesus has changed a lot during this critical time of development for a young man. We used to talk about Pokemon. Now we discuss politics and policy. Jesus attends community events and political rallies with me sometimes. I want him to understand the importance of community, place and the people who live there. Giving back takes time, but it’s almost like that time multiplies because it’s hard to fathom how just a few hours a week can have such a positive impact.
Big Brothers Big Sisters has so many boys and girls like Jesus. Kids who need that connection, even if it’s just throwing a baseball around or going to a movie. The organization estimates 300 boys and girls between the ages of six and 18 are waiting to be matched with someone like you. These are kids who have sought out a mentor. These are kids who often come from single parent homes, where even the biggest superhero of a mom or dad can’t always meet every need or be there for every moment a kid wants to open up. Big Brothers Big Sisters tells me some kids wait three years just to be picked. For the youngest of them, that’s half a life! You can even be matched with a child who shares your interests, the way Jesus and I share a passion for baseball. All you have to do is take the first step.
The jobs are bigger now. I represent more than 800,000 people as the Maricopa County Supervisor for District 5 in the southwest corner of the county. I’m also on the school board for Phoenix Union High School District. These elected positions keep me busy with official meetings and events. But I still make time for Jesus and the baseball team and other community organizations.
We all have it. We all have time for things that don’t make money or generate prestige. We all have time to help another human being or improve our community. My friendship with Jesus through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona taught to me to never fall into that trap of thinking I can’t do more. I challenge everyone to give a steady allowance of time to others, especially our youth. Be a volunteer. Be a mentor. Be a friend. Our community is better when we give more of ourselves and say “yes” to others.