While on a plane to Charlotte, NC, I struck up a conversation with an eldery lady sitting next to me. Actually, she struck up the conversation with me by offering me some of her snacks. I graciously accepted because the chances of getting free food on an airplane have greatly diminished. As we munched on trail mix, we talked about our kids.
“I have 7 children,” she said. “But I only gave birth to two.”
“Did you adopt the other five?” I asked.
“No, I just started feeding some of the neighborhood kids and they never left,” she said with a hearty laugh.
She went on to explain how she and her husband raised these kids alongside their own.
“My relatives always told me that I shouldn’t treat those kids the same as I treated my own kids,” she said. “But I always ignored them. In my eyes, they are my children and they have been a tremendous blessing in my life.”
People say that it takes a village to raise a child and I believe that it’s true. When I was a child, I had many “parents” who cared for me and were concerned for my well-being and development. I remember Mr. Brown who taught me how to tie a tie; and Mrs. Johnson who was the den mother of our Cub Scout troop; and the countless other people who gave me rides when my mother didn’t have a car or gave me money when my mother was a little short. I can’t even begin to list all of the people who gave me advice and steered me in the right direction when I veered off the path.
Even as I grew into an adult, I was adopted into several families. When I got my first job and moved to Brunswick, GA, I met a librarian who gave me a home away from home. She cooked delicious meals for me every Sunday night and helped me navigate the town.
I try to take on this responsibility towards many of the young people I’m acquainted with. For example, I mentor a group of boys at my church. Each Sunday we sit around a table and discuss life. I provide advice, guidance, and encouragement. I don’t know if they consider me to be a father-figure, but I definitely feel like they are part of my family. I feel compelled to help raise them to be strong, productive men.
I feel the same way about my kids’ close friends. They eat my food, ride in my car, and hang out at my house. I see them at school, at church, in the mall, and around the neighborhood. I’ve taught them in Sunday school, coached their sports teams, and attended their birthday parties. Our lives are intertwined.
I know how easy it is to be consumed by your own life and family, but I also realize the importance of giving yourself away by positively impacting the next generation.
Without people like Mr. Brown in my life, I’d be doomed to a life of clip-on ties.
Questions: Did you have people in your life who were like parents to you? Do you have an extra kids in your life?
photo by AfroDaddy via Flickr used with Creative Commons License some rights reserved