When Sharaine Caraballo, 32, along with her husband Wilson, 42, and their 5 kids moved from Texas to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, they were understandably nervous.
After all, moving into a new town and a new neighborhood can be nerve-wracking. You never quite know what to expect. There are a lot of What-Ifs.
“Our biggest fear moving into a new neighborhood was, ‘What if our neighbors don’t like us?’ What if, because we have a lot of kids, they make a lot of noise and we come from a big family, so what if there’s any conflict with the neighbors?” Sharaine told USA Today.
“We’re the only Black family in our neighborhood and the only minority,” she added.
But it turns out, the Caraballos had nothing to worry about. They were exactly where they were meant to be.
How a Big Family Became Even Bigger
Their neighbors welcomed them with open arms, and in particular, their 82-year-old neighbor from across the street, Paul Callahan. Shortly after they moved in, he showed up unannounced with a ladder and toolbox, offering to help with home improvements.
“He was coming over with tools. He’d bring screwdrivers and teach Wilson how to fix up the garage, and Wilson followed all his advice,” Sharaine recalled.
A widower, Callahan had sadly just lost his wife six months earlier. Grieving and alone and the last of his siblings still surviving, he was looking for friends and ways to fill the long, lonely days. What he ended up finding was family.
After learning about his loss, Sharaine and her family started including the retired Texas Instruments manager in family cookouts and holiday gatherings.
But their relationship didn’t stop there. For as much as Callahan was helping Wilson fix up their home, the family was helping to heal his broken heart.
An Old Man and a Young Family and the Power of Connection
The Caraballos firmly embraced Callahan as one of their own. Now, he spends nearly every day at the house, entertaining the kids, bringing them “little trinkets” and bubbles, and sharing stories about his life. Paul isn’t just a friendly neighbor, he’s “Grandpa.”
“The kids run up to him like that’s their grandfather,” Sharaine, a case manager for domestic violence survivors, said. “He’s like an honorary grandpa to us. My husband’s father is in the Dominican Republic, so even his mom says ‘Here comes your dad Paul!’”
And it’s not just the kids who benefit, Callahan does too. Having grown up around lots of kids, the octogenarian describes himself as a “very social person.”
“You get many chances to talk to people. If you don’t take a chance, you may miss a friend,” said Callahan. “It doesn’t hurt to be nice. That’s the other thing, it costs you nothing, but a lot of times, you get a better return.”
For Callahan, the return on his investment has been immeasurable. In fact, he’s gotten a whole new lease on life, one filled with laughter, love, joy, purpose, AND family.
Sometimes, families are born. But oftentimes, they are made — crafted through meaningful relationships rather than blood.
The Caraballos were looking for acceptance and Callahan was looking for a friend. What they found in each other was so much more. Because sometimes, when we least expect it, people move into our lives at the exact moment we need them the most.
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