Monday, October 8, 2012

The McDonald's Mentor

What an inspiring, awesome and incredulous lunch I had today ... and at McDonald's, too.

Who would have thought that was possible?

No, it wasn't McDonald's food that inspired. You know that -- it's just the same old burger, fries, and a Coke. Which, by the way, I had an enormous craving for today. (Criticize if you will, foodies, health nuts and anti-corporate types, but a Big Mac every now and is just the cure for what ails ya!)

What inspired was a conversation that I could not help but overhear. There were two guys having a loud conversation that rivaled the vocal volume of any 3-piece suit wearing, cell phone yappin', I'm-closing-the-big-deal-and-I-think-everyone-in-Concourse-C-waiting-for-a-flight-to-Poughkeepsie-should-hear-about guys (Gosh, I hate those guys). I passed quick judgement at first glance and thought they were a couple of ne'er-do-wells that one would be wise to avoid in a dark alley, but as the moments passed and their conversation proceeded, it became clear to me that one was the mentor and one was the protégé.

The mentor spoke loudly in slow, carefully measured words. A few sentences in, I figured he was a simple man, but as he continued, I could see he was more wise than his tone indicated.

During the course of my lunch and their conversation, he urged the youth (about 20, I'm guessing) to take control of his life, modify his environment (get a home -- he had been sleeping on "friends" couches for the last two and half years), remove himself from bad influences and become accountable for his actions.  "Be a man. You're not a child anymore; no one will look out for you if you don't do it yourself," was one statement I recall. It didn't just end with words of encouragement -- the next stop he would take him was to an "Italian lady's place" where he could get a bed, fresh laundry and a new start on life. The Mentor said, "She's good people -- the kind you need right now in your life." Also, "You won't be able to pull anything passed her. She's wise and seen it all, so don't even try."

Unavoidably, I heard every word in this 15-minute conversation. As they were walking out the door, I had to do all I could to not jump up and shake the Mentor's hand. His direction was firm and definite and clearly something the younger adult needed to hear.

It was an amazing act of selflessness, commitment and caring. I was inspired and, so often when we hear bad news committed by even worse people, I was happy see such people still exist.

Even though I never formally met either of these fellows, I wish them both well. I hope the younger takes the older's advice and becomes a stand-up citizen and that kind fate shines upon the elder.

That's why I like to leave the office at noon. You never know what  adventure or experience awaits!

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