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End of a Journey

"Yesterday marked the formal end of a six-and-a-half year journey which changed me profoundly as a person and which, I can only hope, has made a difference in someone else’s life, too.

On Saturday, I bid an official farewell to my Little Sister, as she turned 18 and our match closed.

I first met Jessica at a craft night in October 2001. A dozen or so women and girls, most of whom I’d never met, were seated around a long table in the Big Brothers Big Sisters office in downtown Langley City.

We might have been decorating cards or gluing glitter and macaroni onto something, I really don’t remember. And it really doesn’t matter.

The one image that has stayed with me from that evening is of a pretty 11-year-old stranger. Tall and skinny, she had olive skin, dark eyes, brown curls and a slightly anxious expression on her face.

Crowds of strangers clearly weren’t her thing, but she’d worked up the courage to come and check out one of the agency’s group activities.

We were matched a short time later and I officially became a Big Sister.

What followed were easily 100 movie nights and countless conversations over White Spot chicken strips.

Wall climbing, laser tag, water slides and snowboarding at agency-organized events punctuated our more run-of-the-mill get-togethers.

But in many ways those more staid outings were the best, because that was when I was able to really get to know this intelligent young lady. I quickly learned how kindhearted and thoughtful she is. And her wide range of interests always made it easy to sit and gab for ages — chats which always included plenty of laughs.

From the outset she was big into art and music — drawing and painting, singing and playing guitar. She can’t get enough karaoke or Dance Dance Revolution.

Her love of animals drew her into a brief period of vegetarianism, but in the end she couldn’t give up her beloved chicken strips.

I haven’t peeked inside her closet lately, but it is no doubt filled with black T-shirts and skull logos — evidence of a long and enthusiastic goth phase which appears, thankfully, to be winding down (not that it’s for me to judge).

Whenever I pressed my finger to the doorbell over the years, it was always a mystery whether I would be greeted by a girl with black, blond, blue, green or fuchsia hair.

There have been braces on her teeth, Mohawk hairstyles and numerous piercings. And, if all has gone to plan, her first tattoo is healing as this goes to print.

At 18, those decisions are hers to make now.

Still, she understands the balance she must strike between expressing her individuality and landing that all-important first job, and so her hair is a very sensible brown once more (of course, that could change at any moment).

It’s been a trip watching Jessica grow from that bashful girl to the poised young woman she is today.She’s still soft-spoken and a little shy. But she’s also, hands down, one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. And though she’s not my Little Sister anymore, I’m proud to call her my friend.

Happy Birthday, Jessica"

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