I don’t want to say that life was better when I was growing up, but maybe it was simpler.  Back then we could be out at night without much of a worry — there weren’t the same dangers and fears.

A few weeks back I was coming home late from work.  My drive goes through the same not-so-great neighborhood each time. A few times I’ve seen the same young boy – walking alone with a back pack in this neighborhood.  One time I saw a truck pull up next to him, give him something and drive away.  Last week I saw him and the truck again but this time I was not ready to drive home.

Let me back up: this is a cute boy 10-12 years old.  He’s still got that baby look.  When I’ve seen him before, I’ve wondered how his mom let him be alone in that neighborhood, at that time of day.

This last time, after the truck drove away, I slowly drove up next to him.  I rolled down the window.  He looked in at me and kept walking.  He looked so young.  I told him that I often come home from work this same way and that I would be nervous if my kids were walking home this same time and same location.  No response and kept walking (good … don’t talk to strangers, I’m thinking).

I keep slowing driving next to him and ask if he needs a ride.  It’s now starting to drizzle.  He says “No, thanks.”  I ask him if that “truck” will be coming back to get him, and he says “No.” I ask if his backpack needed to stay dry.  He said it’s just “stuff” for his mom.  It’s “fine,” he says.  (“Fine” is the universal teenage word for “back off!”).

The rain is really starting to come down now but he won’t get in the car.  I ask him if he will please take my umbrella. He stops and nods his head yes.  I give him the umbrella, the bag of popcorn in my car (I’m Italian and always have food with me!) and $20.00.  He looks suspicious but takes it all anyway.  I tell him to remember that he can make something of himself some day.  No response.  He walks away with my umbrella.  I’m left to drive home.

My heart still feels sad.  When I arrived I got my usual greeting and “how was your day,” from my kids.  I realized at that moment that the boy didn’t choose where he was born and neither did mine … yet, look how different (unfairly so) their worlds are.  I don’t know if the truck was a drug dealer or he was delivering groceries (likely not).  Maybe I’m making a huge assumption – I hope so.  But – no matter – it seems to me that life is a bit more complicated now. Deep sigh. 

Keep your eyes open today.  And, be thankful.