BEING THE BREAK

After a long day at work, I stopped to get some takeout. As I was walking in, I was approached by a young black man, who asked me for money.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me.  I get approached quite often, and most of the time the person has an outlandish story about why they need the money.

When I looked into this kid’s eyes, however, he seemed genuine enough.  He did not set off any of my “creep-o-meters” or “danger, danger,” feelings.  Believe me, in many situations like this, regardless of race or gender, I feel like I should walk away because my instincts tell me to do so.

The young man was calm and polite, so I paused to listen.  He held out his hands and showed me his paycheck.

“See, I work. I’m trying so hard.  I have a roommate and we both just got jobs last week. I’m working at Jamba Juice by the mall. I am now $20 short and I need to get a cashier’s check to pay my rent by tomorrow.”

I told him I was sorry, I didn’t have any cash and went in to order my food.  While I was sitting there, I remembered that I had been paid with a $20 bill earlier that afternoon.  When my food was ready, I went back out to the car and I saw the young man asking someone else for help.  The person was so rude to him I wanted to cry.

I got in my car and motioned him over.  I told him I remembered I had some cash on me.  I pulled out the $20 and gave it to him.  I thought he was going to cry, but instead he reached in the window to hug me.   He told me that he had just moved to Houston to get away from his parents who were both on drugs.  He was trying to raise himself up and he was confident he would get a second job soon and then he’d be ok.  He just needed a break.  This break.

One of the clerks at the restaurant came out to see if I was ok and I heard him say, “soliciting.”

The kid’s face fell.  “Please, don’t come at me like that…this…this is my aunt.”

I gave the clerk the thumbs up and said, “Everything’s ok here.”

I mean, yes, I am a regular there and yes, a man did dive in my window so I understand why the clerk came outside.  He was not rude in any way, either, but the clerk looked at me like, sure, this kid is your nephew.

I looked at him as he was backing away and said,   “I’m proud of you!”

The kid smiled so big and he looked at the clerk. “See, that’s my aunt!”

I really am proud of him.  I hope he makes it.

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