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A Gateway to Responsibility


Jan. 1, 1970

Today I’m remembering my time with the Ransom sisters. Ruth and Nettie, both so wise and loving. They were two elderly sisters that lived across the street from my parent’s house in Cinnaminson. Doing yard work for the sisters was a ‘lesson in courage’, a ‘rite of passage’ and the ‘gateway to responsibility’ for me and my brothers.

Ruth and Nettie lived in a small green house. As a small boy, I didn’t go there much. But I do remember on Halloween receiving the Ransom’s much anticipated obligatory apple, hitting the bottom of my candy bag like a yummy brick.

Their yard was big, always tidy and perfect on the corner of S. Read and Rowland. Having been neighbors long before I was born, my father used to cut their grass.When my brother Tony was old enough he mowed, then Bill and then me.

I remember the quiet day my mother told me that it was now my turn.Argh! There were a thousand things to do on a Saturday in Jersey and mowing the Ransom’s yard was one thousand and one on that list. On top of that, my mom’s last words as I was pressed out the door, “don’t you dare charge.” 

They were elderly, gray, mysterious, sturdy and small, but intimidating for a 12-year-old boy. All the kids in the neighborhood thought they were twins. They weren’t, yet still a double billing of something strange and unknown.

Ruth and Nettie were meticulous. The grass had to be a certain way. Cut against the grain on the slope, then mow downhill along the driveway. This grass was trained, and any mistakes were noticeable. Follow orders and do the job right. It was my first taste of hard work.

At the end of the job I was invited inside. The living room was perfectly neat.  A cold drink and a chat always followed. Ruth said, “stand tall, be proud of your height, and how are your grades?” 

And then it happed, out of her purse she offered $3.50. I felt good. I had done something. It was my first memory of feeling like a man, feeling like my dad, feeling like I worked and liking what getting paid felt like.I went back again and again, eager for the chance to get inside, sit on that old chair, hear their stories and learn. That feeling still lives in me today…My mom knew best.

Take a moment and remember occasions that transformed you, and realize opportunities for change still exist. 

Action Creates Opportunity,

Andre Collins

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Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Gene Upshaw Player Assistance Trust Fund

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