One of my favorite things about the internet and it’s culture is the made up holidays. On the internet there is a holiday celebrating any and everything from Spaghetti and Ice Cream Day to Hug Your Cat Day. Most of these quirky holidays are just for fun but there are a couple that I enjoy because they remind me to be grateful for my personal life experiences and the people in it.

National Sibling Day was April 10th this year and as I watched everyone post pictures of their wombmates, I smiled reflecting on the person that has had the biggest influence in my life.

Like most younger sisters, I grew up watching and emulating my older sister, Kendra’s, every move. She was the coolest person I knew and I remember running ahead of my mom to get to the bus stop in the afternoons to greet her off the bus. Sometimes she would allow me to wear her bookbag even though the bottom scrapped the pavement as we walked hand in hand back to our house. She would tell my mom and me stories of what she did at school and of her teacher and friends. I would hang onto her every word as she spoke while trying to think of something equally has exciting or cool that had happened to me that day. Most of the time my story was bout a butterfly I saw or a picture I drew.

No matter the mediocrity of my story, while we waited for mom to fix our afternoon snack, she would respond, “Good job Jaja!” and marvel as I explained to her the nature of the colorful scribbles that swallowed the notebook paper I had hung proudly on the fridge right before her arrival. Her approval was the one that I needed the most. Mom and dad could say they liked whatever I created but if I didn’t get enthusiasm from my sister, my whole project was a waste.

This dynamic continued well into our formative years. My need for her approval had grown from a childhood annoyance to a personal sidekick. She was batman and I had no problem being Robin. I was her back up dancer during karaoke. She made me sing all the male parts in every song on the radio. And to this day I can do her entire tryout routine from her audition for the High School Step Team because she made me learn it to help her practice the parts that needed a partner.

I was always considered mature for my age in large part thanks to her. See, she taught me (by force at times) these skills and techniques that often made me a step ahead of my peers in practical things like math, reading and writing but also in sports, leadership and performing. She taught me how to have stage presence and use more than just your arms and legs to express emotions during dance. We went over songs she liked and their harmonies for hours to get the notes just right so we could show our mom. She taught me that being a leader wasn’t always being the loudest or most talented person in the room, but rather the person with dedication to the vision and prosperity of the team.

Even during our teen year when we didn’t have the best relationship, I saw her lead teams where she never had an official title and be a beacon of knowledge for others she worked with that left an impression on me. Something about her made her peers want to bypass coaches and captains to come to her for approval.

I was never sure if people were drawn to her because she wore her every thought on her face like a Hollywood billboard or that even at only 5 feet tall she was often the scariest person in the room. If life were the Salty Spittoon (from Spongebob) she’d be the owner. Her aura had a way of filling up the biggest room and it was as if she walked around with her own personal spotlight.

While we were growing up, I thought I was the complete opposite of my sister. As we both reached maximum teenage sass, I thought we didn’t have much in common other than the same gene pool.

Having all these memories come back to mind caused me to ask myself, “What is the biggest life lesson I’ve learned from her?”

It took me awhile to think about the answer because we have both changed so much as individuals and it is hard to know where some traits and habits derive from. I thought about our early adult years. After she moved to North Carolina to pursue her college degree, one thing I noticed was she was always serving. Any time I spoke to her over the phone she was volunteering at church or community event. She was volunteering her time to help out friends and strangers. Juggling school, work and a social life, she seemed to always be in the mood to help people.

Some days she would be so tired from life but she still would tell me that she was on her way to help someone with a personal problem. I watched as over the years she grew closer to God and despite societal norms she dedicated herself to His work. It has never been popular for people in their early twenties to spend their time reading the Bible or going to church faithfully but she did. I often told people she was the most saved person I knew.

If you know Kendra well, you know all of this to still be true ten years later. In fact, after she reads this post at work, she’ll hop in her car and head to church to lead worship or teach the kids a dance or play that she choreographed and wrote. She’ll cry a little bit because even though she’s a thug she has a soft spot in her heart.

I’m not writing this to make her cry though. I’m writing this because a silly little made up holiday caused me to truly reflect on the fact that unlike many people I know, I have a great relationship with an awesome young lady. There are so many people who don’t have a personal connection to the same people they shared a womb with. They don’t call or talk to them let alone have inside jokes or a similar sense of humor. I am blessed to not only be able to call her my big sister but also my friend.

That connection has grown tremendously since our mom passed. A lot of people go through a traumatic experience alone because their family can’t get along long enough to help each other grieve. That was not the case with Kendra and me. Our bond thickened to the size of the truck of an oak tree.

Through the grief and confusion of last year, I watched her get on her knees and serve the way she always has. She still served her church. She still found time to be a great friend to her tribe. She checked on all of our relatives and even took care of me. Yes, she had weak moments and moments of confusion and moments were she just wanted to quit life and people but she didn’t because who she is at her core is a servant.

Some would say that being a servant is not an admirable trait but those people don’t understand that the greatest things in life are not how much money you have or how many bottles you’ve popped but about how many lives you’ve effected. Life is about influencing people without any benefit to yourself. Kendra is that person who you may only encounter a few times but you don’t forget. She will speak life over you and pray for you in the same breath that she quotes Mean Girls or The Office.

She is never afraid to be true to herself (whether you like it or not) and makes no apologies about her style, her heritage, or her God.

I know God loves me because I truly have the best example of every part of womanhood in her. If there’s one thing I’d want to be forever, it is the Robin to her Batman. Not only is she beautiful on the outside, her soul is a pure vessel of love, acceptance, and comfort for all who come in contact with her.

k, good talk