By Daryn Kagan EBS contributor

This week I have the story of one lucky girl, a story that starts with a pathetic pity party. Mine. On a Sunday night, long ago. What is it about Sunday nights? How they magnify lonely and sad feelings. Which is what I cried to my best friend. It wasn’t the first time we’d had this talk. Which is probably why she cut short the empathy and sent me a link with a simple note: “I think you need to do this.”

It was a link to volunteer for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. I figured, “What’s the harm in giving a couple hours a month to a kid?” That’s how I met her. An 8 year old in pigtails with an impish grin. That first outing to buy giant M&M cookies at the grocery store bakery was the beginning of the rest of my life.

From two hours a month, to school events to trips across country. I have no doubt the act of caring about this tiny person opened my heart. Made me ready the following year when I met the man who would become my husband and his daughter.

Somehow, we fell into a foursome, spending weekends, traveling the world. By high school, my Little Sister was living with us full time. We never formally adopted her or even became her legal guardians. Her mom had some challenges to deal with and we were able to give her access to a better education, a home.

It hasn’t always been easy. About a year ago I called her mother and declared I was done. “Oh, no you’re not,” she replied. “All those years ago you promised me you would get this child to college. I don’t know how to do that. There’s one more year. So, no, you’re not done.”

“But she can be so sassy and disrespectful,” I complained.

“Don’t you know that’s what babies do to their mamas?” her mother counseled. “You’re her mama, too.”

Perhaps, this fills in some holes, Dear Reader.

Who is this second kid you refer to in your columns? She’s ours. And she’s not. In this, we are not alone. Perhaps, you, too, are raising a kid who is kinda sorta yours. Maybe we all are. None of them are really ours, after all.

It is now 10 years later. Today is the last time I drive her to school. Last kid. Last ride. In a couple months she will, indeed, be off to college. “I hope you’re not crying when you read this,” she wrote in the card she left me. The one where she called me her second mother.

She knows better. I was bawling my eyes out. For this is the story of one lucky girl. That girl is me. The one who was sad, lonely, and pitiful enough to click on that link. To meet a little girl who showed me how to care about someone else. And changed my life forever.

Daryn Kagan was a featured speaker at TEDxBigSky 2018. She is the author of “Hope Possible: A Network News Anchor’s Thoughts on Losing her Job, Finding Love, a New Career, and my Dog, Always my Dog,” and the founder of darynkagan.com, a resource for uplifting and positive news.