For the past few weeks at the intersection of Downman Road and Chef Mentuer Highway in New Orleans there’s an old school sight. A young man between the ages of ten and twelve years old is standing out there washing car windows for a few extra dollars at the stop light. The first day I saw him standing in that busy intersection during rush hour traffic I wondered what the hell he was doing out there. You don’t see little boys his age doing that anymore. He’s always clean and neat so I don’t think he’s out there trying to eat or anything like that.
Maybe he’s trying to get some extra money for his school shoes. The shoe peer pressure can be rough at that age so I can understand that. He could be trying to buy a new video game or fresh skateboard so he can roll around like the rest of the young cats I see. Just the fact that he’s trying to earn it made me start giving him my extra dollars and change even though I don’t want washing my windows. As a matter of fact I have seen him collect a lot of money and I haven’t seen him wash a window yet. Last Friday I seen a big dude with redneck tendencies in a truck with oversize tires give him a five dollar bill and he couldn’t even reach the windows of the work truck he was driving.
He’s learning a valuable lesson even though he might be too young to fully understand it. The lesson is that no matter what you look like or where you come from most people respect work ethic. Working hard and doing your best everyday won’t stop you from having problems but it will open the door to other opportunities and keep you out of trouble. I hope he makes enough to get whatever it is he’s out there for because that will be a good positive reinforcement.
What happens to a lot of young black men is they older and gets caught up in what I call twisted dignity. The reason why it’s twisted is that is based on money and not values. We’ll look at a guy washing windows or doing odd jobs to make his money legally as a fool and worship some well paid hustler who’ll shoot our parents if the money is right. We have to reverse that in order to calm some of these kids down and get them to not feel so hopeless about society so they will care about living and in turn will care if the rest of us live or not. Until they start caring our community will never be safe from the violence that goes on now.
I’m a little jaded but the things going on in our society right now and it’s possible the bar for me being encouraged is so low that I am reading too much into that kid standing out there and washing windows. That’s very possible but we live in tough times in a tough city. When I see that kid I think to myself that he won’t make a lot of money but at least he’s not out there at night waiting to stick a gun in my window. That thought makes me wish there was a 1000 more kids like him cleaning windows, cutting grass, washing cars and whatever else they could do to stay out of the cemetery and the penitentiary.
I’m giving that kid a dollar for as long as he’s out there and I catch the red light. I’m trying to hold on to all of the optimism I can.