“A Career” by Debbie Loesel Stanton/All Rights Reserved
Alex decided to brainstorm this weekend about his future career. He currently worked for an ad agency and yearned for a job without a cut-throat atmosphere.
Less stress in his work life would be ideal, not to mention good for his blood pressure. His home life was nice and quiet but lonely.
Alex walked to a nice park in his adopted city. The temperature was warm enough to inspire him to kick off his shoes and sit on a bench. He ran his toes slowly over the green grass. Contented, Alex sighed and tuned into the sights around him.
A few pretty girls walking past smiled at him. Other people walked by and rendered him invisible, lost in their own thoughts and feelings.
Children laughed and played nearby. Dogs chased after Frisbees thrown by their owners. Food vendors in trucks began to arrive in the park selling hot dogs, ice cream, and other treats.
There was a child who wasn’t laughing and playing, and he didn’t get up to get something to eat. He was alone and looked sad.
Alex thought the boy was a good reflection of himself, so he walked over to the boy and asked if he could sit down. The boy said, “Sure,” and stared at Alex. Alex noticed this and tried to draw out the boy. Maybe he could help.
After a few minutes, Alex said, “Heya, kid. I’m going to get a hot dog or something. Do you want anything?”
“Yes,” answered the boy, and tears fell down his cheeks.
“Buddy, what’s wrong?” Alex asked.
“Um…I’m so hungry. My mom doesn’t have any extra money lately. Oh, and my name is Russ.”
“Well, Russ, my name is Alex. Why don’t we go over and get some food—whatever you want. Is your mom waiting for you to come home, though?”
They walked over to the hot dog stand. There was a delicious smell coming from that direction, and it was here that Russ stopped.
“Ooh! Mac and cheese!” Russ exclaimed. “My favorite!”
“Mine too!” Alex said. “What say we get some, and a hot dog or two also?”
Alex bought four hot dogs, two for each of them, and a quart of mac and cheese. He asked the clerk for a take-home container so Russ could take it home.
Alex and Russ sat on their bench again and ate their hot dogs. Russ finally answered Alex’s question. “Nope, my mom isn’t waiting for me. My baby sister and brother are sick and she’s busy taking care of them.”
“Do you have a dad?” Alex said, beginning to feel sad for the boy. His intuition was correct.
“I don’t know where my dad is,” Russ said, “but I wish he were here. Then my mom wouldn’t have to work two jobs.”
Alex told Russ a story, making it up as he went, and Russ was a willing listener. That went on for awhile, and then they played tag.
“Hey–how about some juice or water?” Alex asked his young friend when they stopped and sat down.
“Well, how ’bout some pop?” Russ said.
“That probably wouldn’t be as good for you as juice. But we could do a compromise. How about some lemonade, Russ?”
“Sure!” Russ practically shouted, he was so happy.
Eventually Alex walked Russ home. Russ’s mom looked frightened when Russ brought Alex into the apartment, probably because of all the tattoos Alex had on his arm.
Russ had noticed his mom’s reaction, too. “Don’t worry, Mom. This here is Alex, and he bought me some lunch. And he got us this mac and cheese, too!” And he held up the quart container.
“You did?” the lady said, in shock that a stranger would be that kind.
“Sure. It’s no problem. And hey–here’s my card, if you or Russ ever need me. I don’t live that far away. I could babysit or run errands–whatever you need.”
“Wouldn’t your wife mind?”
“I’m not married. And even if I were–Russ seems to be a friend that I’ve always needed. I’d love to spend time with him.” He looked down at Russ, who was looking up at him with adoration in his eyes.Alex squatted down to be on the same level as Russ and said, “Okay, buddy, I’ll be on my way now, but please be sure and call me sometime…my number is right there on the card. Hope to see you soon.” He stood up and ruffled Russ’ hair, said goodbye to Russ and his mom, and left the apartment.
When Alex got home, he sat at his desk and started jotting some things down–things to help him decide about a new career.
“Okay, so what would I like to do?” Alex wrote. “Something that’s within my code of ethics, something that I could do if I just had a little bit of faith. Well…I love kids and animals…” He thought back to when he was a kid and his parents had to take their dog Buster to the vet when Buster was dying. That was the saddest day of his life to this point, and he remembered wanting to talk to someone so badly, someone besides his parents, who would understand what he was going through.
Four minutes later, Alex got his answer. He wrote: “I’m going back to school part-time, as long as it takes, to become a child therapist. And I’ll make sure to keep up with my new friend Russ.”