Meranda Herbert’s story. She is 22.
As told to Suzanne Clem
When I hear “Muncie,” I think of home.
I think of the small bar my grandpa owned and hearing stories about how I had my first birthday party there. I think about my best friends living next door or just down the street, riding our bikes around the neighborhood and always ending up at the nearby park. I think of summers spent at my great-grandma’s with all my cousins.
I think of downtown, the businesses, the schools, Ball State, where I’m a senior now, and of the community itself—the people who’ve worked here and lived here for years. This is where I was born and raised.
I think of home, growth, and love.
But those things—home, growth, love—aren’t always easy. I grew up not knowing my dad, not knowing who or where he was. The only part of him I knew was his name, and as you might guess, there’s a lot of uncertainty, emotion, and questioning that comes with that. There was a lot for me to overcome as a kid. I think my mom knew that, and at age 12 or so, she enrolled me in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
I’d consider myself an introvert; I’m not always the most outgoing person when it comes to meeting new people. So when I was matched with Kristen, my first Big Sister, I was nervous. Excited, but nervous. And Kristen was great, but after a year she graduated from Ball State and moved away, and I was matched with Tracey. Now, for your initial introduction with your Big, you’d go to the Big Brothers Big Sisters office, and they’d have games, karaoke, pool—some activities to bond over during that nervous first meeting. I didn’t know it at the time, but that nervous first day was Day 1 of what would become years of encouragement, advice, pick-me-ups, and laughter. Day 1 of a lifetime connection.
Tracey is a social butterfly. She loves talking, she’s upbeat, and in spending time together, whether it was crafting things, grabbing dinner, or just talking, she brought some of that out in me as well. Tracey, bubbly as she is, helped me see what it looks like to branch out and become more social. She helped me venture out of that safe space we all know as our comfort zone.
At the same time, she was a big source of comfort for me. In 8th grade, Tracey and her boyfriend Tony threw me a birthday party. They got my friends together at her little apartment; they had games ready for us, and food, of course. A birthday party—a normal thing, right? But not everything was feeling normal in life right then. Earlier that year, a friend from school had passed away. My friends and I were trying to deal with that on top of school and all the other things in adolescent life, and Tracey knew that sometimes you just need a break. A fun time. That party meant so much to me—it’s one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of the encouragement and love she modeled to me.
The party was a break from my emotions, and I needed that, but the great thing about having someone around whom you can open up to is that you don’t have to hide from emotions—you have someone to help you work through them and give you perspective on them. And on top of all the emotions that come with that awkward transition from kid to teenager, I began to realize I was also really wrestling with my feelings about some of the decisions people in my family had made—decisions I didn’t agree with. When I didn’t know who to talk to about it, Tracey stepped in to help me make sense of my feelings. She was open. She was honest. When she shared that she’d experienced some of the same struggles in her own family life, I knew I wasn’t alone.
Tracey would be there with me for many more of those tender growing-up moments. She was there for my first serious boyfriend in high school. And when we broke up? Tracey was my big sister. She provided a perspective that helped me come to see my worth, which at that time I wasn’t grasping. And now I’m a person whose outlook and self worth wouldn’t be shaken by those life changes the way it was in the past. She helped me see that things can get better.
When I gained a big sister in Tracey, I also gained a big brother in her now-husband. You know, the kind who gives your first boyfriend the intimidating, big-brother talk for you. They both watched out for me, and now that I’m older, I get the joy of watching them build a family, of appreciating their growth too. We may not be in Big Brothers Big Sisters anymore, but we still get to share those big events in life with each other. When she was able to come to my high school graduation party. When I got to see her baby boy for the first time. (I always knew she’d be a good mom). When I became a big sister myself to a half-sister. When I met my dad last year.
And my future? Helping people has always been my passion. My grandmother said when I was little I’d beg her to stop for people with signs by the road. I’ve always wanted to help. I’m a driver for Jimmy John’s right now, and even there, I love talking with people, asking how their day’s been, making a connection with them. There was one older gentleman who would come in every week, and we’d talk, every week. I learned he didn’t have family here in Muncie. I also learned, crazily enough, that we lived in the same apartment complex. So one night we just stopped by his apartment and took him dinner. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you don’t have emotions or don’t need to know people care. I wanted to be sure he knew people cared.
I’m actually starting an internship with Big Brothers Big Sisters this year. And once I finish my communications degree, my plan is to find a non-profit where I can make a career out of my passion. Because I’ve seen people struggle. I’ve struggled. And when you’re struggling, you want someone to be there, someone who’s willing to give you the boost you need in that moment, whether in big ways or small. That’s a community. So if I can help someone else … why not?
Meranda Herbert is a Muncie local, who is currently finishing her undergrad at Ball State. She is studying Communication Studies. She hopes to have a career where she is constantly making a positive impact in people’s lives. She is employed part-time with Big Brothers Big Sisters as an Administrative Assistant. Though she is no longer a Little, she has made her way back to the organization in the past year. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors, with her family, and her dog Brian!
Suzanne Clem is the marketing coordinator for Ball State Dining and enjoys being on her bike and playing music with the No Good Riders.
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About The Facing Project:
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.