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WHO CARES?



I sat there watching her as she read the local newspaper. I in a chair and her on the antique couch in her living-room.

I was not sure why I was even there. Who were these strange people anyway? Why would someone invite a total stranger into their home and give them food and a place to sleep? It was true that I was just a kid. But still that made no difference. They were still strangers to me. There had to be a catch somewhere. There had to be something in it for them. No one is kind to someone else for no reason at all.

I would glance at the television and then once in a while I would look back at her face. I watched as she read and changed the expressions on her face. All at once I noticed tears running down her cheeks.

"Are you ok?" I asked her.

She reached over and she picked up a tissue. She wiped her eyes and then she looked directly at me.

"I was just reading an article. It said that four teenagers were killed today in an automobile accident over on University Boulevard," she told me.

"But why would you cry for them? You don't even know them," I told her.

"I cry for them because they lost their lives at such a young age.”

"I ain't never cried for nobody.’Course I ain't never known nobody that died before either," I told her.

She put the newspaper down, sat up onto the edge of the couch and she looked directly into my eyes.

"I was told by the juvenile authorities that you were rather a hard-nosed boy. Is that true?" She asked.

"I guess. I don't know," I responded.

"I don't think that it is true at all," She said. "I can tell that just by looking into your face and your eyes. The truth of the matter is that you do not know how to feel about certain things," she continued.

I just sat there not having the slightest idea of what to say back to her. She just sat there staring at me. I looked down at the carpet and then I turned my head and I began to watch the television.

"Let me get us a coca cola and let's go out on the front porch,” she said, as she got up from the couch.

I really didn't want to go out onto the front porch. I knew that I would be asked a bunch of dumb questions. Questions that I could not possibly answer. I just wanted to be left alone until I was returned to the juvenile shelter the next morning. Nevertheless, I got up and I walked out onto the porch. I stood there waiting for her to return.

The next thing I knew it was almost four in the morning. She and I had talked for almost five hours. I don't really remember what all was said. I do remember her hugging me and my body going limp, my arms to my sides. I did not know how to react to someone hugging me. I had never felt such a strange thing before. I lay in my bed all night feeling numb and confused. I think I tried to cry but I just couldn't.

My life continued to spiral out of control for many years after that. I made my way to the reform school, jail and then on to prison at age twenty-one. I walked out of prison on February 6th, 1969, at age twenty-four, never to get in trouble again. That's been thirty-five years ago this last February.

Whatever I have accomplished in my life is due to that woman putting her arms around a very confused juvenile delinquent that night. A lady who later became my foster mother. A stranger who took the time to make me feel that I had a worth in the world and made me feel that I was worth talking to. That I was worth giving a bottle of coca cola.

It is amazing how much money the county, and state probably spent on unwanted children like me. That woman accomplished more in five hours than did the state in fourteen years. All for the price of a bottle of coca cola and a free hug.



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