It was a pretty dreary day here in Portland, with lots of drizzle. Bank robbery, teen suicides and gang violence dominate the news.
As I came out of our neighborhood grocery store this evening, a handsome young African American man in a football jersey from our local high school quietly asked for my attention. He was selling a discount coupon book and he showed me the book and all the local businesses where you could use it. “Jiffy Lube is a really popular one. You get $10 off.”
I gave the kid what in retrospect seems like a real grilling, and he indulged me politely. What were they going to do with the money? He said they give it to their coach. Why do they give it to the coach? Well, the coach knows what the team needs and makes sure they get stuff. What kind of stuff? Well, like every two years they get new jerseys. And every Friday they have a team meal. The school doesn’t pay for any of that so they have to raise the money. What kind of food do they eat at the meal? Spaghetti. And healthy stuff. Fruit and carrots and stuff.
He said his name was Cleon and he’s a senior. He’s going to college next year but hasn’t yet decided where. Maybe North Carolina, or University of Oregon. He’s had scholarship offers at smaller schools and he’s keeping his options open. He was bright-eyed, serious and wearing just a hint of cologne.
I told Cleon I wasn’t going to buy a coupon book but that I wanted to give him something, just for him. “It’s not for your coach, it’s for you and you can do whatever you want with it.” I handed him the $100 bill and he stared at it. “Oh! Thank you, Ma’am!” He slipped it in the pocket of his shorts. “Thank you! That’s very generous of you, ma’am! Thank you very much! Thank you!”
I told him I could tell that he was going places and wished him the best of luck. “Oh, I will, ma’am! Thank you, ma’am!” I couldn’t resist pointing out: “Good things happen all the time, you know.” “Yeah”, he said. “This just made me think of that.”