HEY, MISTER!

HEY, MISTER!

From Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul

Hey, Mister!

If today brings even one choice your way, choose to be a bringer of the light.

Anonymous

On that morning in early spring, the track was cluttered with kids. They were dotted all along the path, and often I had to steer around them in order to pass. Some shuffled. They dragged their feet and raised a dry, red dust. Others, mostly girls, walked arm in arm, blocking the lanes and forcing me to skip off and on the trail.

They were in my way.

And it disturbed me.

But one boy in particular got under my skin. He walked alone, mumbling, and each time I passed him this kid called out to me. “Hey, Mister,” he’d say, but I would just ignore him, picking up my pace and jogging by.

He did it without fail.

Repeatedly.

The boy stole my thoughts when all I wanted was to think about my son. We hadn’t spoken in over a year, and I needed now, this day, to figure a way to mend our relationship. But as I jogged, praying for God’s advice, trying to feel his word, this dark, little imp kept interrupting me.

“Mister!” he’d say on cue whenever I passed him. “Hey, Mister!”

Once, as I glanced at him, I guessed that he was about ten years old, maybe eleven. The boy looked up at me with a tiny, wrinkled nose. It supported black, horn-rimmed glasses that were way too big for him. Like his sneakers, I thought. His shoes were also untied, and their lolling white tongues reminded me of thirsty dogs.

The next time I approached him, I noticed that he was knock-kneed. He was thin, stooped and, with a slightly oversized head attached to a long, slim neck, he looked . . . well, ill. It was then I first suspected that something was wrong with him.

With all of them.

Still, I didn’t turn when again he called me.

I didn’t want to see him.

I didn’t want to speak with any of them.

But as I continued to run—even with blinders now—I couldn’t deny that all these children were handicapped, disabled in one way or another, physically or mentally or both. Remembering where I ran, I realized that they were members of a special day care program run by Westwood Park, a Westside annex of the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department.

Up ahead the boy kept turning. As I watched him search for me—the sun glaring off his thick, heavy lenses, and that wrinkled nose following me—he stumbled and nearly fell, having tripped over his own two feet. Now I couldn’t help it. I wondered what he wanted. So I slowed my pace, coming to a tired and lumbering walk when I finally reached him.

“What?” I said, a little out of breath.

“Will you hold my hand?” he answered.

Instantly, my eyes welled. I nodded, yes, but I couldn’t speak a word.

He then reached out. It was a sunny day. The sky was deep and blue and clear. In the trees all about us, the morning doves cooed. The boy grabbed my hand, and the two of us walked along in silence.

Rogelio R. Gómez

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