Sue and Jayniah

Bigs sign up with Big Brothers Big Sisters to help kids, often without realizing how much the resulting match will end up enriching their own lives as well. Little Sister Jayniah might have navigated life just fine without being matched, but for her Big Sister Sue, the kid-infused relationship was a much-needed breath of fresh air. Their special connection has created a bond that will last beyond the program.

Sue had always been aware of BBBS. Her mother had been involved in the program for a brief time, however Sue had moved around a lot and didn’t want to sign up until she could be sure she could commit to the program. “I’ve never wanted children of my own, but I’ve always liked children,” said Sue. “I’d been living in Austin for six years and I owned a restaurant (Counter Culture) and I thought, ‘I’m not going anywhere because of the business, and I’d love to help and be a part of a child’s life.’”

“I also wanted to be part of something that took me completely away from my work,” said Sue. “My work was encompassing my whole life. I wanted to do something where I could turn off my phone, no one would be texting me, and I could focus. Also, I liked the idea of hanging out with someone younger. You get to be childlike again, and my life was so stressful I needed that outlet. As good as this is for a child, I was thinking this would be good for me as well.”

The pair were matched 5 years ago in early July when Jayniah was about to turn 8-years-old – the two have birthdays a day apart. They met at Jayniah’s house, then went for a short drive, walked around the neighborhood, discovering they both loved poking around antique stores, then got a cupcake and went back home. “I didn’t know what to expect,” said Sue. “And though I know Jayniah has had challenges in her past, she has a loving, stable environment at home. I actually contacted BBBS and said, ‘I don’t know if she needs me. She has such a great life.’”

However, life has a way of creating instances that help more than one soul at the same time. Jayniah’s family wanted her to have opportunities other kids have and to be her active self. They felt Jayniah needed an active, “outside the family” outlet. Turns out Sue needed that active outlet as well.

“One of our first outings was to a “jumpy” place and an arcade. I hadn’t done that sort of thing in years,” said Sue, and laughed. “It wore me out, but it’s been great. When I’m with Jayniah it’s 100% about her. I love exploring the world through her eyes. We learn together and she keeps me silly. We laugh a lot.”

One of Jayniah’s favorite match activities is cooking with Sue. Jayniah has told her family she is interested in one day becoming a chef like Sue. “I turned her on to Thai and Ethiopian food – she loves both now,” said Sue. “We make spring rolls and bao buns and sometimes things that are a little more intricate. She likes doing the stirring and I do the knife work. I also have her do the measuring.”

“She really seems to enjoy cooking. Like most kids, she has a big sweet tooth and her favorite part is licking the bowl when we’re done,” said Sue. “We were making spring rolls for the first time, and she kept eating the rice paper and was too full by the time we made them to eat them. She is more appreciative of what she eats when she makes it.”

Sue recently closed her larger restaurant and opened a food trailer. Her plan is to eventually purchase a building and expand her food services once again. “I hope to open another restaurant about the time Jayniah is ready to look for a job,” said Sue.

Jayniah is now thirteen and is becoming a lot more independent. “But she is still excited to get together and still wants to hang out, which is great,” said Sue. “Seeing her grow up and go through all these stages has been amazing. I am always impressed at Jayniah’s depth of self-awareness and knowledge about the world around her. At that age I wasn’t thinking at her level!”

“I hope I’ve been helpful in opening her up to new life experiences,” said Sue. “On our outings, if we come across something we don’t know, I make note of it and when we get back to the computer, we research it and learn more. She’s always eager to do that. So, I can see our activities making an impact on her personality.”

Sue finds she spends time searching for activities for kids and things the two of them can explore together. “As a Big Sister, I’ve learned to turn off my work brain, which has been great for my mental health,” said Sue. “I’ve learned to be a kid again and have fun. And to really listen.”

“Jayniah is definitely a part of my life like a good friend or family member,” said Sue. “If you can become a Big, I would highly recommend it. You help a child and open your world to a small individual that you might not spend time with otherwise. My once-a-week commitment has been great and it’s something I always look forward to.”

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