As a child, I learned very early that there was something missing. At the tender age of three, I lost my mother to breast cancer. A non-conventional relationship with my father, landed me and my two siblings in the care of our maternal grandmother. We grew up with a life full of challenges, but luckily the blows that life was dishing out were softened by the village that helped to nourish and raise us.
Growing up there were hosts of family, family friends, community figures and personal friends who reached out to me, maybe in part because of the situation I was in; no mother, a father who I saw sporadically, a huge age difference between me and my closest sibling (eight years). I was the baby of the bunch. The one who never had the chance to develop a relationship with his mother. But the “village” poured into me for whatever reason.
I often visited other friends’ houses. Their mothers and fathers became my mothers and fathers. Their siblings became my siblings. Teachers who knew my story or learned of it from my previous teachers took a keen interest in me, often coming to visit my aging grandmother if I did something wrong, or even coming to visit to tell how well I was doing. The D.A.R.E. officer for my elementary school did the same thing. He would come pick me up on the weekends and I would hang with him and his nephew and his wife. Then there was the local appliance store manager who bought Christmas gifts, took me canoeing, and often brought me over for Sunday Dinner. He and his wife treated me as if I was their own.
My family was very non-traditional, but filled the air around me with love. I have cousins whom I refer to as my aunties, cousins who I refer to as sister and brothers, aunts and uncles that I considered my moms and pops, and even a sister-in-law, whom I affectionately to this day still refer to as Ma.
We didn’t have much but as with most young kids we were not aware of the financial difficulties.
As an adult I understand that because of the people who did not have to take interest in me, those people helped to mold me into the person I am. Understanding that situations and environments such as the non-traditional one I grew up in, can easily lead to a feeling of hopelessness. My appreciation for what my “village” poured into me has allowed me to develop a passion and an inner necessity to give back whenever I can, as much as I can, as often as I can, while I can. Knowing that there is that one person, like myself, who will appreciate having HOPE AGAIN!
Ricardo Lewis, Director
Giving Hope Again Inc.