In time with my younger brother, I learned to hear “I love you” in getting pushed down during a game of ultimate Frisbee, spending time making dumb jokes and making fun of each other. At the end of the day, I always knew he was looking out for me, that he would seek me out. Growing up with a younger brother, I tended to think that I understood boys fairly well.
I was jolted out of this delusion in a meeting with Dawnielle.
“Look at who you just named,” she said.
I rattled the names off again.
“They’re all fourth and fifth grade boys.”
I blinked. Dawnielle had just pointed out a pattern in the kids with spotty Kids Club attendance that I had entirely missed.
“We need to figure out what about Kids Club isn’t working for those boys. I would suggest meeting with some of our male volunteers and asking them what it’s like to be a fourth and fifth grade boy.”
Contemplative, I shuffled out of our meeting. With faces flashing in my mind, I sat down at my desk downstairs and wrote an email to two of our male volunteers. Quickly, we agreed to meet in two Saturdays at a local coffee shop, a time where I hoped to catch some insight into the part of the fifth-grade boy experience that I had been missing.
Coffee with Bros for Casa Chirilagua, I entitled it on my personal calendar (and accidentally sent the invitations to two volunteers before changing the name…embarrassing).
As I sat toying with my coffee cup during that Saturday, Fernando and Marvin dribbled out recollections and sentiments from their younger days.
“You want to discover things,” Fernando said.
“Yeah, it’s like you look for opportunities to impress people,” Marvin said.
“After a long day, you feel tired of having so many people tell you what to do. You want to explore, especially with your hands.”
I jotted notes as they continued to speak. They started brainstorming activities, different ways to involve light competition, engineering, teamwork. As I wrote, ideas of my own began to flow out and I fell into the rhythm of my pen scratching across the paper. I vaguely heard Fernando and Marvin begin chatting about various boys and other memories.
“You want to be noticed,” I heard Marvin saying. “You need that one on one attention. Like, they need to know we don’t just care about them when they’re at program, but it’s all the time.” Marvin said.
I nodded in agreement, still writing. “We definitely try to do that on house visits,” I replied.
“Well, maybe next time you go to do house visits you could call us and we could go with you. That way they know it’s not just you, but it’s all of us.”
I stopped. “You’d be willing to do that?” I asked dubiously.
“Yeah, just call me,” he said. Fernando nodded, “especially if I’m already in the area because of volunteering, I would do that.”
I realized that I had unwittingly named our meeting with perfect accuracy. Looking at these two men, who asked to seek out and spend time with our students, I saw for the first time that they truly were the “Bros for Casa Chirilagua,” or rather, the adopted brothers of our neighborhood.
I took good notes and ideas away from that meeting. While we still have work to do in wooing our older Kids Club boys, I am thrilled to pursue them alongside brothers.
If you’re interested in investing much-needed male wisdom into our community, which has a high need for men of character, please join the “Bros for Casa Chirilagua.” Shoot me an email to get connected – we would all love to have you: firstname.lastname@example.org.