Matthew Greene first met Mohammed Ndiaye at a local church in Harlem, New York. Greene, a now-30-year-old teacher was serving as a youth minister, and he almost instantly formed a connection with the then-14-year-old Ndiaye.

And that’s a connection Ndiaye needed at the time. In a recent interview with the New York Post, he said:

“[Greene] was a nice guy, very genuine. I grew up in the foster system, and it was rough for me. My life was a series of unfortunate events.”

But a few years later, Ndiaye’s life had grown even more overwhelming. He told the New York Post:

“It was the coldest winter of my life. I had to steal food to survive.”

Greene told the New York Post Ndiaye began to distance himself from him and stopped returning his calls:

“I was worried about him.”

In fact, it was by chance that two years later the two happened to run into each other on the subway. Greene said Ndiaye looked worse than he’d ever seen him — he was on his way to school with 13 stitches under his eye. He told the New York Post he said hello and said:

“Gimme a call if you need anything.”

He said Ndiaye had left him a voicemail before he even got off the train.

The next day they met up for a bite to eat, and Ndiaye began revealing just how bad his situation had become. He told Greene his new foster care placement was “not a good situation.” His 13 stitches were from an “altercation” in which a glass bowl had been smashed in his face.

The home had no food, and all of Ndiaye’s belongings had been stolen. Greene made sure he did all he could do for the teenager, but, most importantly, he made sure to listen.

Several months later, the two were still in touch when Ndiaye was hospitalized for a concussion.

Greene soon found out he’d been listed as his emergency contact. He told the New York Post:

“I was the responsible adult he called. That was a big shift.”

That’s when he had the thought of becoming Ndiaye’s foster parent:

“It was insane. But I couldn’t think of anything else.”

The reactions of his family and friends were similar to his own — they thought it was insane — but his father nudged him in the “right direction”:

“That’s definitely crazy, but life is about doing the right crazy things.”

At first, Ndiaye didn’t want to put that kind of responsibility on Greene, but he slowly grew more comfortable with the idea. The foster agency was also unsure of how to feel considering the adoption of adults is so rare, but, still, Greene pressed to become Ndiaye’s foster father.

Now, the two have been father and son for a year now. Greene told the New York Post that Ndiaye initially “tried to create problems” because the stability of it all was so foreign to him, but they’ve taken things one day at a time.

And considering their age difference is only 10 years, Ndiaye says they have more on the “brother-uncle spectrum.”

Greene said:

“This experience has expanded my understanding of what a family can be. We’re letting go of labels. Who your family is — it’s the people close to you.”

According to the New York Post, Ndiaye will finally meet Greene’s family this holiday season not only as a person, but as Greene’s newest — and only — son.

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