Trennis Jones: Pouring into Others
Ubuntu. A Nguni Bantu term that means, “I am because we are.” It reminds us to have “humanity towards others.” It’s a philosophy Trennis Jones embraced when he stepped up to become a Big Brother for Little Brother Jon.
“That word reminds me that my humanity is connected to yours,” said Trennis, Vice President Community Impact for Austin FC. “It reminds me of the importance of serving others and that it is essential to all of our success.”
Trennis’ journey to becoming a Big Brother began when he was in his 20’s. “I felt I was not doing enough,” said Trennis. “I was the recipient of so many blessings, so I was looking to serve. I’d been aware of BBBS even as a child.”
Trennis signed up to become a Big while he was living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex and he was soon matched with Little Brother Jon, or “J Dub,” as he’s affectionately called. “I was introduced to this young man and vividly remember meeting his mother,” said Trennis. “She said that consistency was paramount to her, and that if I was serious about being a Big, it was not a ‘fly in, fly out’ thing in her son’s life. Because she placed such a great weight on consistency in our first meeting, it is something that has stuck with me throughout our relationship, as well as other aspects of my life.”
Jon was 13 years old when he and Trennis were matched. His mom was single, but he had a nucleus of support around him that included her, his younger brother, and his grandfather. “I think she was looking for that role model. Another person who could support her in his development and his joy.”
Trennis recalls their first meeting as being a bit awkward. “I remember pulling up at their house and all of us being nervous about meeting someone new, especially someone who is supposed to be important to you,” he said. “It was kind of an awkward dance, but it still felt like family. Jon was timid. And it struck me when I got back in the car, that trust is earned.”
Outing after outing, Trennis began to earn that trust, though on their first outings Jon remained quiet, which turned out to be a learning experience – for Trennis. “Jon’s timid way of living and being required more of me,” said Trennis, “in terms of how I ask questions and how I listen to the answers. That is a tool, a gift he gave me. A tool that is useful in my marriage, my professional life, my friendships. Asking people the right questions, and being genuinely interested in their answers is important. If it had just been me talking and him listening, he wouldn’t have been engaged. I had to be better in that area and he made me better.”
The pair had a lot of fun going to places Jon had never dreamed of visiting. “It was fun to take him to Top Golf or to play video games at Dave and Buster’s and to see his face light up. The places weren’t very far from his house, but they might as well have been across the world. It was a reminder to be grateful for the things we take for granted. A reminder to be mindful of what you have.”
Their outings also brought Jon out of his shell. Jon is not quiet anymore, at least not when they are out together. “Seeing him create music and have the confidence to get up in front of a microphone and perform… I’m not sure I have that much confidence,” laughed Trennis.
“It is amazing to see the light turn on and to see Jon realize who he is, who he wants to be, and what brings him joy. It was just a matter of his having a support mechanism, and an environment, that allowed him to become himself.”
“I’m only where I am today because someone poured into me,” Trennis continued. “It’s disrespectful to those who’ve poured into you to not find a way to redistribute that energy. You’re just a conduit of that positivity. That was made clearer to me because of Jon. It’s what our relationship has taught me.”
Trennis sees himself as being another supportive influence in Jon’s life. “I’m another supporter for him, another person to rely on,” said Trennis. “It’s important that he has another black man caring about him. Someone showing him the importance of an education. Then, watching as he did better in school. He was showing up, like I was doing as his Big.”
“That’s the impact of consistency. It’s half the battle,” said Trennis.
The impact of “showing up” was evident the day Jon graduated from high school. It was a powerful time for the whole family. “Just the emotion his mother had, the power that extended to her. She was really, really proud of him accomplishing such a big thing,” said Trennis. “It put Jon’s life on a different trajectory, and he did it. He had love and support, but he did it.”
Today Jon is working a retail job and he is about to reach another important milestone that will involve his Big Brother. “I will be in his wedding this coming May,” said Trennis. “My wife and I got to hang out with Jon and his fiancé recently, and having that continuum of life, having our relationship continue even though we hadn’t seen each other in a while… it didn’t stop. Though we’re in a different season, the love is still there. Our relationship is still based in honesty. We are still family. The power of that is something I will always remember.”
“It’s important for all of us that we are serving. And it isn’t as daunting as it seems.,” said Trennis. “It’s about hanging out, asking questions, just caring about someone else. It’s not that hard to do.”
And, as Trennis knows well, this kind of caring has positive, life-changing, and life-lasting impacts.