This morning, I went out back to clean off my car and clear out a path to the alley. Since it's likely to get much colder I figured I'd better do it early before all the slush and wet snow turned to ice. As I was shoveling noticed a young man walking up the alley in my direction. He looked to be about 13 or 14. When he got within conversational distance, he offered to help me finish the job for $4.00.
I told him, "Thanks, but I'm just about done."
As bad weather often brings out a sense of camaraderie that might not otherwise exist, I followed-up with a bit of chit-chat.
"You're probably doing pretty good today, aren't you?" I ventured.
"Yeah, I've got sixty bucks," he replied
I expressed what I thought was the appropriate amount of enthusiasm for his total when he interjected, "Well, actually I've only got $56.00 dollars. I want to go home with $60.00 though. That's why I said I'd help you for $4.00."
I offered that it was a snowy mess today and I was sure he'd make $4.00 somewhere. He agreed, and continued walking. I leaned on my shovel for an extra second, enjoying the break, when it occurred to me, "I need to encourage this!"
He was about 20 paces off when I remembered I still had $5.00 in my wallet. I shouted after him, "Hey Kid, wait a sec..."
He stopped and turned. I jogged up to him, pulled the $5.00 bill from my wallet and said, "Here. This is for doing something good. This is for not being out here breaking shit, stealing shit, and tagging shit. Thanks."
He was surprised and understandably caught a bit off guard. Perhaps anxious to show he was worthy of his pay, he assured me that tagging and stealing weren't his thing.
"Yeah, I imagine they're not," I said, "still...thanks."
He turned the corner, and I went back to shoveling; all the while imagining - or at least wildly hoping - that our modest exchange would stay with him, becoming a kind of parable that he might in turn share with others.