Busta’s Person of the Week: Big Brother Murray has a big heart

July 19
05:00 2018

By Busta Brown

Meet Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 2018 National Big Brother of the Year: Murray Miller from Winston-Salem.

“I taught inmates in the county jail for 20 years. I started teaching them the Bible, and then later life skills. I ran the county jail GED department as well. I truly enjoyed that,” said Murray Miller.

But Miller said he got frustrated, “not teaching inmates; I loved it. I got frustrated seeing so many young men coming to jail. So I asked myself, how many of these young men would not be coming to jail if they had a positive role model in their life?”

One night on the way home from teaching Bible study to the inmates, Miller’s heart was heavy. He called the one person he knew could cure his heavy heart: his best friend for 19 years, his wife, Terri.

“I told her I was going to stop teaching at the jail, I’m not coming back. I’m going to find somewhere to volunteer and work with one young man, and pour my life into his life. Help detour him from ever going to jail. Show him how to live the life of a positive and productive African-American man in the country.”

Murray Miller is the perfect guy for the job. He and his wife, Terri, both enjoy traveling, going to the movies, and collecting music. He’s earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree from High Point University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Strayer University. He’s also a veteran of the Army National Guard, having served for eight years.

Every year, two volunteer mentors out of more than 150,000 “Bigs” nationwide are chosen to represent Big Brothers Big Sisters of America as the Big Brother and Big Sister of the Year. Miller was honored June 28 at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America National Conference Awards Gala, sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal in St. Louis, Missouri.

Miller “made a big difference” in the life of his “Little”, said Pam Iorio, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. She said he represents the life-changing outcomes of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

As a young man, Miller became aware of the many ills and unique challenges that a vast number of citizens in Winston-Salem were confronted with. “Like most community volunteers and organizers, I began to serve mankind within the walls of a local church. From there, I began to broaden my scope and teach where many of the spiritually and morally wounded were located – the local jail,” he said.

Miller called Big Brother Big Sister right on time. “After they did a background check, I was matched with a young man that was on the waiting list for five years. We had similar interests. When I drove to Jolen’s house to meet him, I had to find an icebreaker to begin a conversation, and I used sports.”

Jolen was in fourth grade when they met. “He was very knowledgable about sports. He knew stats, names of the players, and the colleges they attended before turning pro. That was amazing!” Miller said.

Miller said he’d never broke a promise he made to Jolen. “I’d make sure I was where I told him I would be. His mom is very suportive, so that makes our relationship work as well. When I call to ask what days Jolen is available, she would make it happen.”

Jolen is  now 15, a sophomore in high school and plays football for his school’s team.

Miller said it was easy building trust between the two. “Jolen’s mom made sure they kept their word and my wife and I keep ours. Also, I’m not afraid to talk to him about anything in life.” When it’s time for a serious talk, they would go to Pilot Mountain. “We would talk about everything, including my childhood mistakes. That made it easy to talk to him about what he’s going to face in school and life after school,” Miller said.

Miller said he also teaches Jolen about responsibilities and how honest hard work pays off. “One day I was planting a new flower base. I called his mom to ask if Jolen can come over and help. That day I taught him how to use a power drill and he loved it.”

After they finished planting the flowers, Jolen learned a very valuable lesson. “I used this to teach him the importance of finishing what you start and the beauty of seeing the finished product,” Miller said.

The lessons didn’t stop there. “We go to Farmington to watch the bikes race. I ask his mom to bring him to my office at about 4 p.m., an hour before I get off,” Miller said.

Miller has been the branch manager at a credit union in Winston-Salem for 12 years.

“I let Jolen work with me for the last part of the day. I show him who answers to me, and that I’m responsible to make sure they do their job. I let him see this ’cause most young men his age don’t see that,” Miller said.

Miller said Jolen helped him become a better listener and more open minded to the young generation, “because Jolen is such a phenomenal and interesting young man, I find myself in amazement when he shares his thoughts about life, his future, love for family and the military. He’s made me a better man.”

See the rest of this wonderful interview with Murray Miller on The Chronicle’s YouTube.Com channel at Winstonsalem Chronicle.

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