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Breaking the Cycle

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I look up at Mommy. She grins down at me, asking me what I will get at the diner today.

“I don’t know,” I reply. In my mind I am going through the menu. We come here almost every day. I know the menu almost by heart. Mommy is gripping my hand tight as we run across the street, and my short little legs can barely keep up to her long, slender ones. I hop onto the curb, my Sketchers lighting up as my feet hit the ground. I beam down at my shoes, delighted. The rainbows and hearts blink back at me. We walk down the sidewalk, and I see the man on the green bench outside of the diner.

He sits there, with his Styrofoam cup jingling with a few coins, a few bills, but it’s nothing even close to the top. He grins at me, but there are a few gaps in his smile. Maybe he lost his baby teeth, like some of the older kids in the neighborhood have. “You going to school yet?” He has a gruff voice, gruffer than any voice that I have ever heard before. It’s nice, though. Kind.

“No. Next year,” I reply, gazing up at him with my big blue eyes. I stick my thumb into my mouth and pull on Mommy’s sweater. I can feel my tummy rumbling. Mommy ignores me though, and turns to him. “Would you like anything for lunch today, sir?” She always asks that when he is outside.

“Yes please, ma’am. I’ll have a club sandwich.” Mommy nods once and we walk into the diner, order his sandwich, and hand it to him. The smile lines at the corners of his eyes crinkle when he looks at me. “When you get to school, you’ll get good grades, won’t you now?” I have no idea what he is talking about. Of course I’ll move up from Kindergarten to 1st Grade to 2nd Grade, but that seems too obvious for a question. I just nod my head, pretending that I know exactly what he means. Easier than asking. He nods in approval and looks up at Mommy. “Thank you ma’am.”

“You’re very welcome. Have a good day.”

**********************

Mommy and I had just gone shopping at the supermarket. We are walking out, a man with a Safeway name tag on waves to my mother. “Boy, she’s sure grown, hasn’t she?” My mother smiles at him and waves back. “Yes, she certainly has.” I didn’t recognize the man, so I asked Mommy.
“Do you remember the man who we used to give sandwiches to from the diner?” I nodded, of course I did. I kind of missed him, he doesn’t sit on his bench anymore. Mommy and I hadn’t seen him in almost a whole year.
“That was him. He got a job.”

************************

I am older now, but I always will look back on this man and see him as a role model who stopped the cycle of homelessness, who broke the chain and made a life for himself.





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