If you’ve ever had the opportunity to spend time with Henry Crans, 29-year old computer programmer for Silveus Insurance, you’ll know that he exudes a relaxed, warm presence. His easygoing demeanor and quick smile are infectious, and you’ll soon find yourself at ease.

Crans has worked as a computer programmer for Silveus since he graduated from Grace College in January of 2011 with a degree in computer science. Henry was attracted to programming because of a keen interest in problem solving and the satisfaction that comes from creating something.

“I was always interested in technology,” he explains. “I’ve considered being a programmer since I was a kid. Once I took programing classes in college I knew I was pretty sure I wanted to do it for a career. It’s really cool to sit down with a project idea in mind and get to see it come to fruition.”

Crans doesn’t just practice the art of patient investment at his job – this skill carries over into other areas of his life as well: for the past six years, he has been pouring into the life of a little boy named Alex.

“When I finished college, my friend Val worked at Big Brothers, Big Sisters,” Crans explains. “She was really good at recruiting her friends. I had been wondering if there was a way to tangibly help or mentor a kid.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters works by matching up a young person (their “Little”) with a mentor (“Big”) who shares interests and personality traits. Many of the Littles do not have a father figure and have an often difficult home life. Henry started meeting his little in 2010 and has been mentoring him ever since.

So what does mentorship look like, day to day? What is it like to invest into the life of a child in a way that makes a lifelong impact? Crans and his Little meet up about every 3 weeks, grabbing a burger from Steak and Shake or playing tennis at the park, riding bikes and longboards on the trails, or playing a card game.

“It’s not always magical,” he insists. “Not every moment goes perfectly. There will be awkward silences or times you don’t want to hang out that particular day. But you get there. You show up, have good moments here and there… and then you start to realize how much you care about the kid and how much he cares about you.”

Crans’ mentee lives in a mobile home with his mother and grandmother. His father lives nearby, but never sees or interacts with him. Henry feels that a masculine influence on the life of his Little has the potential to make a big difference.

“I’ve found out that the important thing is really the long-term consistency…it’s not necessarily what we do on a particular day. It’s a lot of little moments. I think he just enjoys spending time with me.”

Henry’s Little was eight years old when they first started meeting, and now he is in eighth grade, ready to enter high school this coming fall. Big Brothers, Big Sisters typically asks for a one-year commitment from a Big Brother or Sister.

What compelled Henry to take such intentional time out of his life to invest in a child for the past six years? Part of the answer may be that it is a picture of his own childhood: people showing up.

Crans grew up in Otsego, Michigan, the youngest of three. He has fond memories of a childhood spent bicycling around his small town, exploring creeks and trails, paper routes, video games, and sports. His parents separated when he was in middle school, which was challenging, but ultimately Crans counts it as a blessing because of the close relationship he has with his stepmom. When he was young, a family from down the road would pick up him along with his siblings to attend at Watson Bible Church of Otsego, Mich. During high school, a next-door neighbor invited Crans to youth group at First Baptist Church. The experience had a profound impact on him, as well as a week at summer camp when Henry recalls approaching a counselor and telling him he didn’t know what it meant to be a Christian.

“My experience with youth group in high school was pretty instrumental in helping me realize I wanted to work with youth,” he notes. “The impact that made in my life and the youth workers there made me want to do the same.”

Crans has carried this engagement in the lives of young children even further by helping out with the Kids’ Club at Community Grace Brethren Church. He also applied for Silveus to invest in Gradway, a nonprofit whose mission is to help kids who are at risk of dropping out of high school, and asked Silveus to come on board with the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, planning fundraisers and donating to the nonprofit.

“[After] working for Silveus for a few years, it’s pretty evident that they’re really philanthropic,” he explains. “The leadership team really has a heart for service and is always looking for opportunities in the community. You can tell they really want to come alongside us as employees. It’s awesome to work for a company that’s that passionate to get involved in things that their employees are passionate about.”

Henry wants to get others excited about becoming a big brother or sister through the program as well.

“One thing I’d really like to see is for more men to be involved in these programs…a lot of the kids that are waiting for matches are boys, are waiting for more men volunteers. If you think about it the number of single moms are there who are trying to raise their kids without the male influence, twice a month whatever small commitment a man can make will make a huge difference in the life of a kid.”

In the meantime, Henry plans to stick with his little throughout high school, and hopes to maintain a relationship far beyond that as well. He says he still has a lot to learn about the ups and downs of mentorship. But whatever happens, he showed up in the life of another person in a way that will last a lifetime.

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