Emily Lund: No Thanks!

I’m afraid I’ve been rejected by Big Brothers/Big Sisters.  They haven’t told me yet, but I’m getting a little worried.  I haven’t heard anything in over a week.  I don’t know exactly how to feel about this, but I’m starting to get very uncomfortable.  Everything was going along swimmingly and then…nothing.  The lack of response, information or communication leads me to believe I have been rejected from a volunteer organization that has a more difficult acceptance process than law school.  I’m about to develop hurt feelings, a low grade self-loathing fever, and probably some mild depression mixed with deep introspective thought.

It all started out innocently enough.  I’d been doing some volunteer work at PAWS but thought maybe I could help out a Chicago youth who needed some positive role models in her life. I had a wonderful childhood and a great family life.  I have been fortunate and never had to worry about much.  Not everyone has been lucky enough to have a these things.  I wanted to show a less fortunate girl a small piece of what a happy childhood could be, that she could be something special and that not everything is bleak.

I have no desire to be a parent and I was hoping this program wasn’t about replacing a parent role in the life of a child. After some research, this seemed to me like a mentoring program, which is what I was looking for! I filled out a quick online application and e-mailed it off.  I didn’t expect to hear anything right away and was surprised when I heard back the next day.  Greg, from applications, thanked me for mine and asked to schedule a time for orientation.  It would be 6 weeks before I could attend the orientation session, but I was patient and understood they only had so many sessions and so many people.  I put the time on my calendar and waited for the orientation day.

I arrived at the offices and filled out a series of questionnaires and other paperwork.  I indicated I did not have a preference on age, sexual orientation, race, religion or living situation.  I did notate that I was atheist but I would not impose any religious beliefs on my “little sister” (as they are referred).  Orientation lasted 90 minutes. They didn’t mention that people were rejected or not accepted but they did mention there were several steps to the application process. We went through the steps of the process, what to expect, what process the littles go through and signed an agreement that we would not keep secrets, buy large gifts, pay electric bills, etc.  I felt good about the orientation and the agreement I signed because I knew myself. I didn’t want to try to solve the problems of a child with monetary support.  I wanted to do something more long lasting and meaningful than give money.

Next, we were asked to pay $35 for a background check and driving record check.  I went online and paid the money and signed off on releasing my information.  Within a few days, I was told I had been cleared  through the background check and driving record check and they would be contacting my references.  I listed my husband (as required), my direct boss (as required) and my best friend.  Within 4 days, each of them told me they had been contacted and has said kind words about me, my character and how lucky BBBS would be to have me as a volunteer in their program.  Soon after that, I received an e-mail from Jessica, a match specialist, stating that I had passed through the reference check and was ready for the face- to-face interview.  I scheduled this with Jessica for the following week.

I again arrived at the BBBS offices and met with Jessica in a meeting room.  She had a series of questions about my childhood, my parents, my friends, my husband.  She asked about my hobbies, my self-perceived weaknesses, my strengths, my medical history, etc.  It was a long two hours of questions, but I felt I did a great job.  I connected with Jessica and she really complimented me on my successes, honesty and aspects of my life that she thought would help support being a Big Sister.  She said the next step was to schedule a home visit and she would contact me with the list of items to be aware of for the home visit and schedule that with me. Since I figured she wouldn’t schedule the home visit with me unless I passed the face- to-face interview piece, I was fairly confident things were going well.

Jessica contacted me the next day to schedule the in-home visit for the next Tuesday.  I thought this was a good sign. She arrived and walked through my house.  She said everything was good and safe and that there was no need to make adjustments.  Yes, we had a fire extinguisher, no, there was no alcohol accessible to children, yes, we had a smoke detector…check, check, check.  The next step would be to notify me that I was accepted into the program and then they would start the match process.  Jessica indicated it wouldn’t be too much longer and I should hear something shortly.

Three days later, I received an e-mail from Jessica stating that I needed to take state mandated reporter training as it was important to recognize and report signs of child abuse.  I took the online course, printed out my certificate and signed the agreement that I would report signs of child abuse.  As I was returning the scanned copies, I reread the e-mail…”upon acceptance into the BBBS program, please take the online course…”  It occurred to me I hadn’t received anything officially stating I had been accepted into the program.  I wrote back to Jessica and attached my documents.  I asked her in my e-mail if I should expect some sort of official acceptance.  She wrote she was sorry it was taking so long but they were hoping to finish processing my application soon.

That was over a week ago.  I consulted with my husband, my mother, and my friends.  They all told me there is no way I’d ever be rejected, yet I have this nagging feeling that I have been.  I am confident I will be receiving a thin envelope in the mail rejecting me.  I consulted the internet as I assumed that only pedophiles and axe murderers were rejected from a volunteer organization.  I was wrong.  I read through countless articles and posts of people who were rejected by BBBS.  All of them were told not to ask why rejection was the outcome.  All of them were told that BBBS would not divulge the reason for the rejection (as it was against policy) and that no further communication would occur.  All of these people were left wondering and guessing.  Some of these people were teachers, camp counselors, nannies; these were people I would think would be perfect fits for BBBS.  I grew more and more concerned with every blog entry I read.

I am about to be one of those people.  I have already started obsessing about all my answers during the interview, the references I gave (should I have given more references who have children?). What did they see about me that my mother, husband, friend and I couldn’t see?  Did I have propensity to abuse children?  Was I too talkative, too competitive, too happy as a child, too willing to accept any type of little sister?  Was it because I was an atheist and these children needed God?  I don’t know.

I will never know.  I have hurt feelings.  I think I would be a good influence on a girl.  I think we’d have fun.  We could roller skate or bake.  She could teach me things and keep me aware that everyone doesn’t have a happy childhood but people can change.  I could be a sounding board for her and listen but not judge her.  It could have been so much.  I hoped it would be.  I’m lost presently and I’m turned off from volunteering.  I didn’t know volunteering was going to force me to be judged, graded, dissected and discarded.

Maybe there is no point in trying to do good?  I’m afraid to look at other volunteer organizations because I assume they won’t want me either.  There must be something bad about me.  I’m afraid to send another e-mail and ask the status of my application because I fear that will make me look too desperate or overzealous.  I’m afraid to not ask because I fear that will make me look like I don’t care or I’m not interested.  I’ve been reduced to an obsessive weirdo who is now analyzing every word and action for signs of being child abuser.  I guess this has forced me to think about therapy again.  Maybe an objective third party can help me recognize my volunteering shortcomings and correct them?  Maybe there is a special crash course on how to pass “volunteering”?  Either way, I’ll try to take a look at myself critically and do a better job.  Either way, I would have made an excellent Big Sister to someone.  For now, I guess I’ll just have to stick with being the big sister to my “little” 34 -year-old brother.

Postscript: Since I wrote this piece, I have in fact, been accepted into Big Brothers Big Sisters.  I am very excited about the prospect of being matched with a “little” and I do hope that the experience is great for both of us.  Of course, my neurosis represented in the piece above should probably be addressed through professional mental help.  Maybe I should also listen to the people closest to me before writing a rant about how I’m possibly subconsciously a child abuser or a terrible human being.  For the record, my real little brother did mention I wasn’t the greatest big sister growing up, but what does he know?


1 Comment

  1. I knew they would pick you–you are perfect for the job. (It is true that you WEREN’T that good with your real brother; but what do I know ?)

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