This morning, on my way on to work, I stopped at WallyWorld for a couple of items. I headed to the fast lane and yelled at my cashier, “Jerry, I’m making you work!” He laughed at me and said it was nice to see me.
We chatted for several minutes as the store wasn’t very busy at this time of the morning. He surprised me when he casually said in the middle of the conversation, “it’s been 16 years since you and Nick looked out for me and got me back to working. Thank you. I’ll never forget it.”
We continued reminiscing and complaining about time flying. I was actually purchasing party favors for JP’s FOURTH Birthday. Jerry reminded me of the emergency ride he gave me one morning that Nick had had an accident on the way home from work. He said I had looked terrified.
We finished up the conversation and I went on my merry way. In the car it hit me: WOW! Sixteen years!
Sixteen years ago Nick and I were renting our first place together. It was a dive. It was located east of the “big city” in a little crabbing town where everybody knows everybody and we were the strangers renting in that white house down yonder.
Jerry lived next door. From day one he’d holler next door as we were coming and going “howdy neighbor.” He was always nice, always kind, always on his front porch. Always. No matter the time of day, he was on his front porch. We’d venture closer and closer as the weeks went on with longer and longer conversations. The way you do in a new neighborhood when you first move in. We would learn more and more about him. He loved cats, he loved the fresh air, he was single, he had been there for years, he knew our landlord, hell, he knew everyone in town. One thing I never did learn, still don’t know, is how and when he got the scar down the entire right side of his face. We never knew, never asked. Because, honestly, it was irrelevant.
Time went on and one of the things we learned was that Jerry was unemployed, living off the state. It bothered us, I’ll be honest. Two young “kids” working our butts off to pay rent, start our lives together, move up in the world. But we knew nothing about why or how it came to be or whether or not he had tried to change his situation.
Until one day he said something about no one wanting to hire him. They wouldn’t give him a chance. We didn’t ask why. Again it was irrelevant. We decided we would be the ones to give him a chance.
At the time, I was working at my Church in the Athletic Department. (Who am I kidding, the department was my Dad, me, Nick, and a slew of volunteers!) We went in to work and talked to the Head Custodian. We told him about Jerry and that, being a wonderful Catholic Church preaching the Word of the Lord, we should give him a chance. Yeah, it was a guilt trip. But it worked. He spoke with Jerry soon after and he hired him.
A year or two went by and we would see Jerry occasionally. We had moved out of the place we were renting in the crabbing town to relocate in the “big city” so we didn’t see him on a daily basis anymore. When we did cross paths he was still always pleasant, always kind, always nice to us.
To our surprise we ran into him at WallyWorld one day. Not shopping. Working! He had taken on a second job to “get ahead on some bills” and get himself “further down the right track.” How awesome! I was proud of him.
And now, after all these years, he’s paid off his house, fixed it up, gotten a couple new cars over the years, and even lost some weight and taken better care of himself. Annnnnd, I just found out, donated to the Rhonda Curley Fund to help her with rehabilitation from her severe stroke. Now, THAT is good news.
Sixteen years later, Jerry still remembers who took a chance on him. That’s a great feeling!