A WISE STORY:__________ The Hoods

I grew up in a tough and very poor working class neighborhood; call it the hoods if you like. There were many people who worked but probably just as many were long term unemployed. Crime was prevalent; burglaries, robberies, and mugging made the streets very unsafe. Hearing the police sirens as a kid was as common as watching a cartoon on TV. It was something we grew up with and living in this environment was as natural as it could be for a child.
Kids were growing up on the streets and there many adults hanging out on the streets too. Luckily my parents had jobs and worked hard but sometimes even so hard and so much that without a better option  I was ‘forced’ to be on the streets a lot as well.
Most of the people were poor or very poor and other than the occasional city bus passing through the nearby streets there were not too many working vehicles either. That is why it was a rare sight at the beginning to see an older guy with a nice black car driving through our streets. Eventually we got used to it and then every day we saw him driving pass by us and then turning left in the closest side street.
I was 11 back then and I was a curious and adventurous kid who liked to explore and investigate things and this older guy got my attention and arose my interest. I just did not get why in the world somebody with a nice looking car (it was a black Mercedes) would drive through such a dirty, filthy and dangerous neighborhood.
After a while, this interest took me a step further and one afternoon I decided to stand at the corner where he made always a left turn and see where he was going. I was waiting there for an hour already when he showed up driving slowly through my street and right in front of me he made a left turn. Our eyes crossed and then he smiled at me and drove away. About a half a mile down that small side street he turned right and he disappeared.
The next day I figured I would get another step closer to find out the answer to my question so I went to that other junction where he made the right turn. This day though I had to wait there longer and I was not even sure if he was going to show up. A few minutes before 6 pm he arrived and again before he made his turn he looked at me and he smiled. I raised my hand and waved at him for which he stopped. He opened the window and asked ‘what is your name, buddy?’ ‘Pete, Sir’ I answered. ‘And what are you waiting for?’ he asked. I blushed and I did not know what to say exactly. Then I gathered all my mental strength and asked the question I was looking the answer for.
‘Well, Sir, I just wanted to know what are you doing here. I mean why somebody with such a nice car drives through this street everyday? It is a dangerous place, at least this is what everybody says’. He smiled at me and said ‘I live in that building.’ He pointed to a building in the middle of that street. ‘And yes it is not the safest place to live for sure. But my parents lived here before they died. They were hardworking people who did not reach financial heights in their lives, but they did everything they could to raise me up well. They gave me values such as respect, honesty, pride and love. These things brought me back to my roots here. And even though I know I could be living in the rich suburbs, I like it here. I like the people here, I feel I belong here. I tried to live in a fancy place with fancy people around me but that is just not me if you know what I mean.’
Then before he rolled up the window and drove to his place he asked me one final question. ‘By the way, Pete, did you ever think what this neighborhood would become if businesses and people like me would just leave from here?’
I walked back home and I was thinking of the answer to that question, but as an 11 year old kid I had a hard time coming up with the right one.
Now as an adult it is more than clear.
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Jul 13, 2010