Find Healing in All Relationships

Within one day of meeting our new friend, Carly Southworth, we adopted Miss Bessie Mae, the beagle from the Nashville Humane Association, where Carly volunteers on the weekends. During the week, Carly works at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee (BBBS).

“It’s about relationships and being open to the healing found within them,” Carly says. Though I had just met her through the introduction of a friend from our neighborhood, I knew Carly was serious about her career and her efforts to improve our community here in Nashville when she said this. As so many of us do, we often find ourselves caught up in moments where it is more important to be right, or to be heard, than it is to be open to learning and listening. Carly and her team at BBBS live by the philosophy, “Be the person you needed when you were younger.”

Mentoring our youth

Carly’s career at BBBS began when she volunteered to be a Big Sister. She then joined BBBS as a caseworker, pairing families with youth, and is currently Vice President of Programs. The organization accepts applicants ages 6 to 16. Her father is a former marine, and her mother has always had strong social justice values, and so a life of service has been a natural path for Carly.

Through her experiences in personally mentoring children and young adults, Carly is appreciative of having learned how to live life at a slower pace, placing a stronger emphasis on communication in relationships. In adopting the aforementioned team’s philosophy, Carly’s efforts focus on remaining vulnerable with mentees–showing them the importance of openness and honesty, coupled with validation and encouragement. “It is important our youth understand the availability of choices in life, and also how to make decisions with the knowledge of these choices.” She places an emphasis on education, being careful to center all goals on empowerment through the enhancement of skills and opportunities.

[pull_quote_left]“What we really need right now are more male volunteers.”[/pull_quote_left]

A large percentage of applicants and participants in the program come from single-parent households; mentors are encouraged to spend time with mentees in an environment that facilitates the growth of a positive relationship, and BBBS provides mentors with additional opportunities, such as sporting events, community events, and group events with other mentors and mentees.

Perhaps most notable is Carly’s deep understanding of the importance of healing found through the exploration of relationships, and how that healing can be both reciprocal and permanent, when all participants are willing. While many ‘good’ mentors exhibit strength when it comes to empowering others, Carly’s wisdom is a cut above, in that she views every relationship not only as an opportunity for empowerment, but also as an opportunity to learn more about herself. Teachers that remain teachable are the best from which to learn, because they are continuously evolving.

As such, Carly inevitably challenged herself to go beyond her calling at BBBS, and became a volunteer at the Nashville Humane Association. Staying true to her values with people, Carly pursued work that allowed her to establish relationships with homeless animals. Consistent with her efforts with our youth at BBBS, she approaches each animal on that animal’s level and terms, being careful to respect their level of comfort. Once again, she strives to not only exude love and care, but also to educate the animal on its choices, facilitating a higher level of confidence. She also harnesses the far-reaching power of social media to help place animals in homes, whether foster homes or permanent homes, and this is how my wife, Lindsay, and I came to adopt Bessie.

Impact our youth

To find out more about how you can make a difference in the lives of our Nashville youth through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, call (615) 329-9191 or visit

Help our homeless animals

For more information on volunteering or supporting the Nashville Humane Association, visit


Practice makes permanent

One final note about Carly Southworth: regardless of your personal beliefs on religion and spirituality, one short conversation with her, and you will be certain she truly performs ‘the work of the Lord.’ We can all learn from this spirit. What better way to evolve, than to examine our hearts and become more open in all our relationships? In order to bring forth positive change, we must commit, continuously, to being the good we want to see in our world. May we seek, find, and practice this principle in all that we do.


Get involved and be about change by subscribing now

[mc4wp_form id=”2866″]

Marcel Hernandez

Leave a Comment