GERMANTOWN, WI [ JG ] I may have told this story before.
A few years back, the apartment complex I was living in opened itself to rent-assistance tenants. As such, a number of the kids who came around that Halloween were from low-income families. Two poor kids came knocking at my place and yelled “Trick or Treat!”
When I opened my door, the shorter of the two caught a glimpse of my (new, then) 52″ television.
“Whoa, nice T.V. mister!” he cooed.
“Thanks,” I replied, dropping a couple extra of my bite size Snickers in their pillow cases.
“You sure are lucky!” the kid exclaimed.
My face lit up, I’m sure. I recognized, and seized upon this as a “teachable moment”. A chance to impress upon young, eager minds a quick nugget of capitalistic wisdom, wrapped in a coating of delicious motivation.
“Luck has nothing to do with it, son.” I squatted to meet him eye-to-eye. “There was a time when I was poor. Dirt poor. Had to live on the streets, eat garbage, the works.”
Both boys’ eyes grew wide with incredulity.
“But one day I decided to stop just wanting life to be better. I started working for it. Taking odd jobs with long hours and low pay. Gaining new skills. Coming home tired and sore day after day until finally, today, I’ve worked my way up into a job I love, with a decent paycheck, and the ability to treat myself from time to time with things like a nice television.
“So you see, luck doesn’t have anything to do with it. If you set goals, and work hard toward them, you can make a great life for yourselves, too.”
There was a moment of silence which I naturally assumed was the result of the boys being awestruck by my wisdom. Then the younger of the two shrugged his shoulders, looked down at his feet dejectedly, and proclaimed:
“Naw. You’re just lucky.”
They continued down my hallway, stealing one last glimpse of my entertainment center before disappearing out into the courtyard.
I can only imagine that the home they returned to was rife with periodic laments about “the rich getting richer” and how any family better off than theirs was guilty of stealing from the poor, taking advantage of the working class, and other such garbage.
The sight of these two boys, walking slouched at the shoulders with the weight of this “unfair” world on their backs, was among the scariest of things I’ve ever seen.
And it will haunt me forever…
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