"Let's try to open our hearts
It's not too late to make a brand new start ..."
Dateline: Difference Making
I was supposed to be a statistic.
Great expectations were for others. I belonged to the “not-so-great" crowd.
Let me ask you this question: Have you ever looked at a human being with a blank look, a look of complete indifference, neither caring for, or against? A look filled with just nothing?
As a young teen, I got those looks.
I knew you were looking straight through me. You gave me the same look as you did the corner lamp pole.
I have never in my life forgot what it feels like to be a statistic.
Barb...those nights that I thrash around in the bed, those nightmare nights. I’ll tell you the nightmare, it’s hundreds and hundreds of eyes looking at me, and not a one seeing me.
To this day, I fear, once again, becoming…invisible. Fear being looked through, fear the knowing looks that say, "Dude ain’t got no chance."
In my nightmares, I know this: When those hundreds of eyes blink, they are washing their soul.
All of us, one day, will be shown all the faces we looked through.
We will be asked for an answer for each and every face.
And Republican will not be allowed as an answer, and Democrat will not be allowed as an answer, and conservative, liberal will not be allowed as an answer.
We will stand there, and we will bow our heads, and we will shed a tear because we know THERE ARE NO ANSWERS for why we didn’t care. And when we look up and ask for forgiveness, we will do so looking into the eyes of those we looked through.
“…there are solutions to the problems we see…”
A monthly check will not turn around "nothing left to lose."
You can’t buy faith.
The KIND in MAN is the only chance we have that will make a difference. And if you start calling me, or thinking I’m some sort of liberal hippie I’m going to tell you to shut the hell up.
Because from the time I was 17 until I got married at 22, there wasn’t a bone in my body that believed that man had kind in him. You shut the hell up because I had nothing left to lose.
I was invisible, until you needed something to complain about, something to point at and later tell your kids, “you don’t want to be like that do you.”
I was reduced to being a THAT.
Trust me, I feel more at home with these children from the Mid-Atlantic Youth Anglers & Outdoors Program, then I do sitting in your board rooms. You ain’t going to solve nothing up there on the top floors, or in your capitals, we, The Family, Of Us, going to have to solve this down here on the street, going to have to solve it one-to-one.
And that’s what this program does, puts the KIND in MAN, shows the “that’s” in the world, everything is left to gain.
The moment we launched in Philadelphia, we made a difference, we showed these children,
impossible is possible.
“This is the first youth organization to ever host a professional fishing tournament.”
Todd Pride is the guy who runs the Mid-Atlantic Youth Angler & Outdoors Program, “It’s my full time job.”
Todd is a very cool, successful, hard driven, to be honest, guy from the hood. As we talked, as I rummaged in my pockets to find my pen I told Todd that I to run a non profit designed to help kids, and then on the record I asked this: “What’s the mission of your organization.”“Our mission is give kids the opportunity to enhance and expand their education through the outdoors.” I didn’t look but that sentence may n fact be on his business card, I’m pretty sure it is in his IRS 501 c 3 filing because a sentence like that is in my 501 c 3 filing.
So then I say, “Okay tell me what your soul tells you the mission is.”
“don…it gives the children, especially the urban children, it gives them purpose.”
PURPOSE, changed my life.
You will find lots of things out there on the streets, out there in the alleys, out there on the front steps and porches, but PURPOSE won’t be one of them.
PURPOSE, gives tomorrow, life.
“I’ve worked with 7,000 kids now, inner city, suburbs, rural, but especially urban kids, and, and, and…
Todd is looking past me to the backdrop of the city behind me, I know he is choked up because he is tasting PURPOSE with his thoughts, “…you know don, I get choked up when I think about it, when I try and talk about it, but I have had parents come up to me and tell me, this program has changed their child’s life, and even changed their family’s life…”
And as Todd looks past me to his city, I look past him and to the Delaware River and the bass boat running down it.
“…we should all take a chance…”
I will not tell you his real name, only his nickname….’reese.
I will not take a recognizable photo of him, you’ll soon know why.
That was his answer to this question, “What’s the chance with your background that you would be a junior in college, Penn State, studying to be an engineer.”
I was 25 years old, almost 8 years out of high school when I first stepped into a college classroom.
I know pretty damn slim.
‘Reese and I were quick to form a kinship as we are talking he leans in and says, says quietly so the folks around us won’t hear, leans in so his words won’t float far on the wind.
“I’m from West Philly, that’s the ghetto, my father was a cocaine dealer, you won’t believe this but he just got out of prison 3 days ago, called me up and said he was coming, I said uh-huh, hmm, dude has always been out of my life, been in prison 17 of my 20 years of being alive.”
I say nothing, I got nothing for that.
“Where I grew up, we got drug addicts and dealers all up and down the street, I was asked all the time to sell drugs, I didn’t but I was asked, 4 of my friends, they in college, athletes, only there to play, 60-75 percent of the kids I grew up with didn’t go to college, haven’t made it out, probably won’t.”
I’m watching pigeons, I’m thinking of a Philly Cheesesteak, I’m doing whatever it takes not to have to think about what this young man just told me.
“Don, your name is Don right, Don not many resources in the inner city, people keep doing what they doing but…”
I interrupt him, put my pen down and tell him, “It’s not the people trying to help in the inner city, they want to help but they get so overwhelmed and the government is so screwed up, they mean to do good but they may have just come of the track some.”
‘Reese smiles and says, “Some, yeah, some, great way to put it, some huh.”
“…don’t be afraid to lend a helping hand…”
I am not some blue-blood Kennedy Roman Catholic guy, I’m just an old street kid who has happened to cover crime most of his adult life, I know what’s out there, I know who’s out there, and I know the slim chance we have of changing things.
Ask my wife, I would come home from day after day of seeing the worst we do to each other and she would ask, “How was your day,” and most days this was my honest to God answer: “We’re all going to turn to salt again.”
Pass the pepper.
‘Reese must sense my funk, “Don, look at me, the improbable me, I’m making a difference, I’m not just telling them, I’m showing them, I’m showing them you can get to this spot, you can get to where I’m at…I did.”
I shook “reese’s hand, put the pad and pen away, walked by all the B.A.S.S. workers, by the B.A.S.S. fish holding tanks, by the cars in the parking lot and back the block and a half to my hotel.
Opened the hotel room door, put the Do Not Disturb sign on the outside handle, stripped down to naked, turned on the shower, grabbed a towel and put it over my head as I sat down in the tub. Brought a bottle in their with me too…A&W Root Beer.
And as the steam fogged the bathroom, I was once again, nothing. I was once again, invisible, once again, just a “that.”
Through the drips running off the end of the towel over my head I kept hearing the last thing ‘Reese said to me, “Coming to the outdoors, coming to fishing was magical to me, being out there on that water put a distance between me and the streets, in my mind, and in a real physical sense, I was safe.”
Drops of water are forming on the shower ceiling.
I am 17 years old.
I am a hood.
Not my world, I’m not in the plan, dude is disposable.
How many generations do we give up, how many disposable generations do we have in us, we, mankind.
The white cotton towel on my head is heavy, rivers are running down the inside of the shower curtain.
And suddenly, the Beatles song, “All We Need Is Love” starts to play, The Beatles, what…and then I realize my phone is sitting on top of the toilet and as I reach over and pick it up I know who it is…Barb…the Beatles song is her ringtone.
One person can make a difference a in a persons life, one person can in fact turn a hood, into a father, one person can see the invisible.
“You okay, don.”
“Uh-huh,” as I turned the shower off with my foot.
“What’s the matter.”
I’m in Philadelphia at a B.A.S.S. tournament, I’m the father of two great kids, husband for the past 40 years to the same lady, college graduate, bunch of awards, love my job.
“Nothing wrong at all babe.”
All things are possible. I’m proof, ‘Reese is proof, this tournament is proof.
Make a difference in someone’s life, please.
We just proved it.
Here, in Philly.
“…this world could be so beautiful if we just worked together to make a difference today.”