I have come to realize that I can’t write just about past incidents.
It has become more important to write about people who have played a significant role in my life. For it’s the people we encounter that shape us into the adults we become.
When I was 16 years old, I became friends with Mark Lewis. This led me to be introduced to his parents, Ralph and Elaine Lewis.
The first time I walked into their home, I was wearing a pair of oversized sunglasses doing my best to be cool. As soon as I walked in, Ralph took one look at me and said, “Hollywood.”
That would become my nickname with Ralph and Elaine for years to come.
The second time I met them did not turn out quite as well as the first. I met Mark at his house so we could go out and do whatever it was we were going to do.
I parked my car behind Ralph’s and locked it up and took the keys. Little did I know that Ralph and Elaine had planned to go out that night.
Now for those of you who don’t know Ralph, he’s a big man. Elaine, on the other hand, is tiny.
But Elaine wasn’t the one waiting on me in the driveway when Mark and I returned. It was Ralph.
He said, “Hollywood, let me tell you something. The next time you park your car behind mine so I can’t get out, I will take my front end loader and push your car down the embankment.”
He said it with a smile, but I got the message. And it never happened again.
Ralph and Elaine have been good to me.
They were good to many of us teenage boys.
It never mattered to them that there would be six or seven of us guys over at their home at one time. They opened their doors to all of Mark’s friends.
And we were there a lot.
They had a pool table in the basement that kept us occupied and out of trouble. And it was a home that our parents never worried about us when we were there.
Why? Because they knew that we were being supervised. They knew Ralph and Elaine.
I shamefully left home one time after getting too big for my britches. I immediately went to Ralph and Elaine’s. They took me in.
But Ralph reminded me that I was always welcomed there but he would never go against the wishes of my parents.
I don’t remember the exact words he used. But he told me to go home and make things right and then come on back anytime. I hoped I thanked him for his wisdom. But if I didn’t, thank you Ralph.
Ralph has had a few heart issues over the years. And we have all grown older. But I often think about the times I sat at the table in their home and was treated as if I was one of their own.
No matter how many times a week we all gathered at their home, Ralph and Elaine never complained. As a matter of fact, they seemed to enjoy having us there.
This makes them both very special people. Not every household is like this. Not every set of parents would tolerate it. But they did. And they made six or seven of us boys better people because of their hospitality.
I have been very blessed over the years to have a few lunches with Ralph although it has been a year or so since the last one.
And I will tell you this about Ralph and Elaine because they would never boast. But they have helped many people over the years financially and otherwise.
They don’t do it for an award or recognition. They do it because they genuinely care about people and want to help where they can.
So many help others for the wrong reasons.
But Ralph and Elaine, they do it because it’s the right thing to do.
So boys, you know who you are. Take a minute and give Ralph and Elaine a call. Say thank you for putting up with us.
For there will come a day when that opportunity will pass.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.