A Year in the life of a Children's Village Grandpa

Hank Mattimore
Jan 1 2008
Reproduced with Permission

This was a year like no other for this old guy. Living here at the Children's Village full time changed me. I was on a honeymoon of sorts my first few months here. Being a visionary at heart, I think I was dreaming about this idyllic community of kids and old folks living together in harmony. Experiencing all that love from the parents and grandparents, the kids would all be transformed and we would live happily ever after.

I knew somewhere in the deeper recesses of my mind that life is not like that. I haven't lived 73 summers without realizing that kids don't turn their lives around simply because they get a little one-on-one and a hug from a parent or grandparent. They are all individuals, complicated, struggling, imperfect human beings with their own journey to undertake. I want us to make a difference in their lives, I suppose as much for my own reasons as theirs but whatever changes we bring about will not come quickly.

We have accomplished something. I would say that most of the eighteen kids here now genuinely like the village, the camaraderie, the fact that their siblings are still with them. Oh, maybe it's not as good as the home they wanted so badly but we have managed, for the most part, to afford them some safety and security and a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.

Kids know at some level that we are trying to help them. Like most families, it will not dawn on them until some years have gone by, how hard we did try and continue to try to give them a better life. It has been ever thus. It takes a while in the best of circumstances for kids to feel gratitude. We parents and grandparents all get back SOME warm fuzzies from SOME of the kids, SOME of the time. But if we expect to be smothered with smooches and expressions of undying gratitude, we are in the wrong business. Still and all, I'm glad I'm here and grateful to whatever God may be that I find myself with a new name and a new identity. For better or worse, I am Grandpa Hank and consider myself one lucky old dude to be spending my twilight years doing something I believe in.

I am in the process of writing a book about my life in the Children's Village. I hope to have it published by this time in 2009, I will try to be as as unblinkingly honest in writing this story as the kids I live with daily. They are beautiful human beings.

Happy New Year to all.