Spotted this message on the island of Curacao in 2015. Photo by Steve Martaindale.

Let’s talk about the people who pass through a child’s life, perhaps making a deep impression with relatively simple acts.

My first thought is of the man who introduced my brother and me to roller skating.

As I remember, he was a friend of my father’s and for some reason suggested one day that he take us to the local skating rink. I would have been no more than 6 years old and Ward a year younger. Nowadays, when a story starts like that, one thinks, “Oh, no,” but there was no drama except for me seeing how fast I could skate without splashing against the rail.

When I first started to write this, I thought of the man’s name as Ray … then Red … and finally Brownie. I’m not positive of either one, but I’m leaning heavily on Brownie at this point, recognizing well it may have been my father’s nickname for him.

I do not remember how long this experience with Brownie lasted, but I enjoyed roller skating into my high school years, thanks to a man I know nothing else about.

Big trip

My sophomore year in high school, our track and field team was awesome and headed into the state meet with a good chance to win it all. I do not recall even trying to wrangle a trip to Austin for the competition. Since our dad owned and ran a convenience store, things like that did not happen easily.

Again, I know not how it came about, but Ward and I were extended the offer of a trip to the state meet. This particular angel I knew a little better. He answered to the nickname Smitty.

We stayed one night in a motel – a LaQuinta on what was then the northern fringes of Austin. Early the next morning, I made my first of what would become many state track meet visits to the University of Texas.

Oh, yeah, our boys team clinched the state championship during the final event, the mile relay.

A village

None of this is new. We’ve all heard the proverb that originated in ancient communal societies, most notably in Africa, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Parents need a hand. At the very least, they can benefit from help.

So many adults – and even older children – contribute to the care and education of youth. Keeping an eye on them while parents run to the store. Housing them during a family emergency. Carrying them to school or to religious services. Helping cover participation fees for events. Coaching youth teams and leading organizations. Providing a sleepover to offer new experiences. Even intervening when a parent is the problem.

Let’s hear it for our villagers.


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