Just about the only thing that could get me into the mall this week is the promise of giving away $100. I drove right by on my way home and figured I’d dash in and see what happened. There was a parking place right by the entrance, which seemed like some kind of omen.
Once inside, I remembered why I avoid the mall at this time of year. It was crazy crowded! Right in the middle of the day! I looked around, not really sure what I was looking for. Someone who seemed like they could use a boost.
I went into Ross and had my eye on a young couple working their way down the shoe display. Then I heard the man say, “Just pick out what you want!” His tone was impatient; his voice unnecessarily loud. I decided not to stick around.
As I wriggled through the crowd I almost ran into a man standing outside one of the shops. He had a young boy with him and the two of them were looking around as if they were a little lost.
“Crowded, isn’t it?” I asked. “Yeah!” said the guy. “I’m not even from here!” (In retrospect, I’m not sure why he said this, but it made sense at the time.)
I asked where he was from and we settled into a quiet conversation, busy-ness swirling around us. He said he was visiting from Detroit; that he has family here and thinks he might stay a while. “I only got a one-way ticket!” The boy was his little brother, Anthony.
I said something kind of silly, like that Portland was a magical place and unexpected things happened to nice people. The guy just looked at me sideways and said, “Oh, yeah?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Like, someone might just come up to you and give you a hundred dollar bill.” I had been holding on to the bill in my pocket and I pulled it out and handed it to him.
“Are you for real?” he exclaimed. “I can’t believe this!” He reached out and shook my hand. “Thank you so much!” He asked my name and said his was Desmond. “I wish you could see me blush!” he said. “I would be so red right now!”
He started doing a little dance, bouncing from foot to foot. “Wow! I am just so grateful right now! Thank you!”Â Then he said, “You want something? You want to go shopping?” How sweet is that?
I explained about honoring my Mom with the gift and he listened intently. “That’s real cool,” he said. Just then a woman with a cane stepped around the corner. She looked at me, then at Desmond. I could almost hear the unformed question take shape.
“This is my Mom,” he explained, pointing at the woman. “Hi,” I said. “Two nice young men you have here.”
The woman wasn’t exactly unfriendly but she didn’t share Desmond’s easy going openness. She grunted at me and kept walking. As Desmond and Anthony fell in behind her, Desmond turned around and gave me a little wave. “Thank you!” he called out, one last time.
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Not everybody enjoys the Christmas season, so I can understand his mom being a little standoffish. But he sounds like a fine young man. I love his smile!