“It’s important to be open and willing to extend yourself as a brother because there are men who are waiting for your fellowship, are missing your fellowship, and desire to have a closer relationship with you. “
I’m the second youngest of 5 boys and 1 girl born to my mother, and I’m thankful to have had so many male influences in my life growing up. No matter what, I always had someone to talk to, engage with and get valuable insight from. Whenever my brothers wanted to go somewhere, my mother would tell them “Take your brother,Cheyenne, with you”. Maybe she wanted the house completely vacant so that she could spend time alone with her my step-father but I’d like to think she primarily wanted my brothers and I to spend more quality time together.
My two brothers, Travis and Shane, hated taking me with them because they were one year and 3 years older than I was and they wanted to do what older kids did. I, on the other hand, simply wanted to spend quality time with my brothers. They were good looking, talented, ambitious and all the girls in the neighborhood wanted to know them.
My brothers were my protection; I wasn’t big enough, strong enough or tough enough to stand my own ground at the time. Meanwhile, no one in the neighborhood would dare cross my older brothers. Anytime I had a problem with someone, I would simply name drop one of my brothers and if that didn’t work, I would run and tell my older brothers that there was a problem and they would see to it that it was fixed. My brothers taught me how to defend myself, how to stand up for myself, and how to let know one take away my dignity.
If you can imagine growing up in a house full of boys, you already know there were many physical altercations. Negotiating, debating and fighting with my brothers hurt me at the time, but it helped build my character. When we fought against each other, we did so because we didn’t know how to talk to one another as brothers. We looked at one another as competition as opposed to teammates.
My older brother Shane and Travis, who were closer in age fought all the time, and yet they hung out all the time as well. It was clear that they loved each other; they just didn’t know how to show it. In a brotherhood, respect for one another’s thoughts and feelings are essential to the success of that relationship.
My oldest brother Milton moved out of the house before I could even remember, which made his visits so much more exciting! Why were we so happy to see him? Because we missed him, we enjoyed our fellowship with our brother and we needed the connection. We needed those special moments where he took us to the park for a few hours to play, took us to the movies, or simply treated us to a soda, chips or some candy at the store. If you add up the dollar amount that it took for our big brother to make us happy, it wouldn’t amount to much. The true value is the time he took to come back home and spend quality time with his little brothers.
As men, we hardly ever express to other men how we truly feel about them. Once we swallow our pride and express to our brothers that we love them, we appreciate them, and that we want to have them around, the stronger the bond will be. Often times we disregard men’s feelings because we assume that they’ll figure out a way to get past their hurt and pain on their own. In a brotherhood, you take care of not only your sisters, but also your brothers.
Right when I started high school, two of my older brothers were incarcerated right around the same time, which left me and my youngest brother Joshua behind. I had just moved to Texas with my sister, Jordi, and my parents soon moved to Texas, as well. I was in a new place literally and figuratively, I didn’t know anyone, I had no one to protect me, and I was a New Yorker living in Texas. It was my turn to be the big brother and protect my younger brother, as well as teach him the ropes.
I took great pride in it because Joshua looked up to me, he respected me and he was counting on me. I was tough on him, the way my older brothers were tough on me, but at the end of the day, it was all out of love. Our relationship wasn’t perfect, but there was a lesson in everything that we did. Joshua and I are 4 years apart and we’ve shared a room at almost every place we’ve lived so I had the greatest advantage over all of our siblings to connect.
I remember back in 2008, I had just graduated from 8th grade and my mom had bought us Seasons Passes to Six Flags Over Georgia. I would go to Six Flags every single day of the summer. And then came the responsibility; my mom said “Take your brother Joshua with you”.
I would write letters to my older brothers and send pictures, hoping they would be free soon, and my prayers were soon answered. After years of not having my brothers around, one came back, soon followed by the other. Time apart will allow you to see the value in being together. After so much space and time between us, my older brothers were no longer ashamed to introduce me to their networks. In fact, they wanted to be introduced to mine.
In college, I met two brothers from another mother, Kerry and Khayri. We called ourselves “Triple Threat”, we graduated from Texas Wesleyan University 2008 in the same class but different fields, we were all athletes, and were very popular on campus. What I admired about these two brothers is they were goal oriented, intelligent, and they were extremely down to earth. We connected right away through our love for music, food, sports and of course the ladies. We were there for each other no matter what and remain in constant contact long after graduation.
In life, you will come across many men who don’t have fathers, brothers or friends to talk to, bond with or network with. It’s important to be open and willing to extend yourself as a brother because there are men who are waiting for your fellowship, are missing your fellowship, and desire to have a closer relationship with you. It’s ok to be the listening ear, the shoulder to cry on or provide the positive words of advice to another man. That’s what being a brother is.
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Edited from Original Version: Ask CheyB
Photo: Juan Andres Lopez/Flickr