While I was standing on a street corner in my hometown, I saw a boy of eight sit down and rest his back against a tall oak tree. The air was crisp but the sun was out, warming every thing in the path of the sun’s rays. I saw him clad in well-worn, faded, blue jeans that rode low on his hips because his body was thin. His face was pinched with hunger, and was finely chiseled, his nose straight, and his lips curved in a slight smile. He looked tired and lonely. His eyelids closed and I could tell he was sleeping.
I walked around the center of town and shopped for a while. I entered the food market and bought an ice-cold coke for the boy and an apple for him to sink his teeth in. When I came out to the sidewalk, I saw him open his eyes and look around with a confused expression. His eyes were a deep blue and when he removed his ball cap, his hair was auburn in color. He straightened his clothes and combed his hair with his fingers. His clothes were clean though tattered in places.
I stopped in front of him. He looked up with one cocked eyebrow. He saw the coke and apple, flashed a grin and said, “Sweet baby Jesus, here’s an angel sent from heaven.” His eager hands took the food, and he motioned for me to sit down beside him. After settling down, he asked me my name and I shared it with him. In between bites of the Jonathan apple, he told me his story. He lived in the country in an old, dilapidated shack, not far from town. His sick mother and he had just moved there after his father had died of cancer. He was looking for a job so he could support his mother, for she was too frail to work. He was worried about her and wasn’t afraid to assume responsibility for the care of his family. When he spoke of his Dad, I could tell he had loved and respected him. Tears came to his eyes as he described the times they played together and went for long walks in the woods. I could see the grief etched in his face and the pain he tried to hide in his eyes. He looked away, because of pride.
I told the boy, whose name was John, the market manager needed a stock boy. I pointed to the building right across the street. I encouraged him to enter the market and ask for a job. He got up from the ground and on to his feet. He took his cap in his small hands and brushed the dust and debris from his clothes. His fingers again combed through his hair. He straightened his shoulders and walked with confidence into the store.
Fifteen minutes later, I saw him and the manager in front of the market. The boy’s face was red, and his body straightened and became rigid. The manager’s voice floated on the air. He told the boy he had no work. He said He felt sorry and reached in his pocket to pull out a handful of bills to give to John. John shook his head no and said, as clear as a bell, the following words: ” My dad taught me better than that. I won’t dishonor his name. You can keep your money sir.” He turned around and was gone in a minute. As he walked away, he seemed to have grown, a foot. I often wondered what happened to John, for I never saw him again. But I was sure, whatever it was, He was doing his father proud.