Child is the Father of the Man
Stuart Godfrey’s Story
By Stephen Terrell
In 2014, I walked in to my first board meeting of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware County. I had never served on a board before, but I could not turn down the invitation when asked to serve on this board. You see, by walking into that meeting, I felt I was completing a circle – a circle that started at age eight when I met my own Big Brother.
I really didn’t know my father. He was killed in a drunk driving accident. His best friend was driving. They were both drunk. The driver was seriously injured, but my father died instantly.
I was five years old and had just started school in Elkhart. I have pictures of him, but I only have a few vague memories. I guess that may be why I don’t carry a lot of that baggage from his death.
My mother, a lab technician at Miles Laboratories, was left with two children: my sister, who was barely a toddler, and me. In the summer between second and third grade we moved out in the county with no sidewalks and no place that I could ride my bike. And I was in a new school. Although I’ve never talked to her about it, I think my mom was a little nervous about that transition. Kids are resilient, but moving to a new area on top of losing a parent, tests the limits of even a child’s resilience. So without talking to me, she signed me up for Big Brothers.
Greg Thorne was my Big Brother for more than eight years. Time, distance and life have separated us since those years, but, in many ways, he is still my big brother.
When we met, he was a recent graduate from Ball State’s entrepreneurial program. He was a big burly guy. A rugby player. A guy building a series of businesses. And he was a guy who knew what it was like to lose your father at an early age.
When we started, my impression was that this was just going to be fun. And that’s how it ended up. There was no prescribed program, no workbook, no programmed activities, no checklists, no pre-planned preachy talks. We just hung out. And I think that may be why Big Brothers Big Sisters works so well.
It’s really about making a connection and finding how to keep that connection alive. Greg and I did that by just hanging out. We would play miniature golf and video games at the arcade, pumping in fistfuls of quarters. We might go for ice cream. And in the process, we got to know each other.
I went to his wedding. I helped him lay sod at his new house. When his kids were born, I got to hang out with them. I got to see a different way a family could be. Just spending time together is what I really remember more than anything.
Greg was really the only person I could identify with who had gone to college. Over our more than eight years together, I had a close-up view as Greg transitioned from college to the working world, got married, had kids, and became a doting father. At the time it was just fun. It wasn’t anything bigger than that for me.
I certainly didn’t think I needed a Big Brother. I was getting good grades in school and staying out of trouble. No doubt I was in a very difficult situation even though I didn’t think of it that way. But looking back, maybe I needed it more than I realized. Who knows how I would have turned out otherwise?
When I think back, my wife Sue and I were the first ones in our social circle to get married. When we started having kids, it was the same thing. But I had Greg as a role model for being a good man, a good husband and a good father. Just by hanging out, he showed me that there could be different kinds of outcomes other than what I had seen.
Spanning time is a huge part of what makes people feel connected to each other, and allows people to open up with each other and be authentic. It allows you to be vulnerable. That’s what Greg gave me.
So now I’m an architect. From the time I was young, I wanted to be either an architect or a priest. The priest thing didn’t work out, but I’m certain I’m in the right place.
I work at an 18-person firm with offices in Indianapolis and Anderson. I work mostly with schools doing studies about how effectively current space is utilized, meeting with teachers about new teaching methodologies, evaluating current and future space needs, and designing and supervising construction of new school facilities.
But a big part of my job is being a mentor. I supervise the firm’s intern program for architectural students, mostly from my Alma Mater of Ball State. I try to make sure they meet their school’s requirements.
My mentoring also applies to our firm’s young architects. If someone is frustrated with a situation, I’m the guy who knows about it and usually the guy trying to fix it. I talk to our younger employees about career and professional development, and try to look for opportunities for them to showcase their talents. I’m always trying to help them see the path, and see where they need to grow.
Mentoring is important. I can see it in my life. I believe that by building one-on-one relationships, touching one young person at a time, Big Brothers Big Sisters changes lives. I know. Greg Thorne changed mine.
A Muncie native who recently has returned to live in his home town, Stephen Terrell is a writer and lawyer with his law office in Indianapolis. He has written and spoken extensively within the legal profession on a wide variety of topics. In his non-legal capacity, he is the author of three books, including Stars Fall, a legal thriller, and the Manny Award winning short story Visiting Hours. In 2007, he was selected to the Indiana State Bar Association’s General Practice Hall of Fame. In 2014, Steve received The Indiana Lawyer’s prestigious Barrister Award and was honored as a Muncie Central Distinguished Alumni.
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The Facing Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that connects people through stories to strengthen communities. The organization’s model to share stories and raise awareness is in cities across the United States focused on topics such as poverty, sex trafficking, mental health, immigration, and more. Facing Project stories are compiled into books and on the web for a community resource, used to inspire art, photography, monologues and—most importantly—community-wide awareness, dialogue, action, and change toward a more understanding and empathetic society.
This story originally appeared in Mentoring in Muncie, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware County in Muncie, Indiana.