Jason was on his way to the bus station. The streets were crowded, full of people who did not look after him. “No, they will not miss me,” he thought. “Nobody will miss me.”
David, who talked him into the crime, had already forgotten about him once Jason landed in youth jail.
“It’s easy,” David said one afternoon six months ago. “We don’t steal it, we just rent it. Nobody will catch us. Trust me.” For his own part he was right. Nobody caught David. But they did catch Jason. He wound up in jail for six months, separated from his family and friends. “I hope it will be a lesson to you,” the judge had told him.
And it had been. He promised himself not to do anything like that again, anything that could land him in jail. But he was not so sure about this promise any longer. “Why keep a promise if nobody thinks I will be able to?” he thought to himself.
Obviously they did not trust him, for they forced him to do social work when he got out of jail. But why? he asked. He had no idea. Putting him in jail was penalty enough, wasn’t it? He saw no reason he should have to look after old people, to help them to go shopping or go for a walk with their dogs.
That is why he played hooky yesterday. And now he had to live with the consequences.
“Play hooky one more time and you will go back to jail,” his probation officer told him.
His parents were angry, too. “Can’t you see what’s the best for you?” his mother shouted. “You are sixteen now! You should know how to manage at least a little part of your life.”
“Go on like that and you will destroy your whole life,” his father drolly predicted.
Jason recalled these words as he stopped at the street. All the traffic lights were red. Like a warning signal. “Do not cross the street!” Jason thought. “Yes, maybe I should not pass this way. I’ll go back home, go do my social work.” Yet still… He saw no sense in helping old people. Don’t they have children to help them?
Suddenly he realized the old woman standing next to him. She wore old clothes, a dark green skirt and an old raincoat with little holes in it. The three shopping bags she carried in her hands seemed to be rather heavy. He looked down to her, for he was much taller. Smiling, she looked back. A merry face she had.
“Do you mind helping me across the street?”
“Huh? Ah, well, yes. I mean, it’s no problem. Give me your shopping bags?”
He offered her his hands and took the bags. Together, they crossed the street. One part of Jason’s mind asked him what the hell he was doing there, but another one was quite happy. To Jason’s surprise it was the bigger one. It felt good: helping this old woman, being needful, making someone else happy. He had never felt like this before. It came surprisingly easy to him. He carried her bags lightly.
During their twenty minute march, they talked a lot–or, rather the old woman did. Jason found out that she had not seen her children and grandchildren for years. They did not come to call, and she had been a very lonely person. But she manages her life, although it is difficult and has not always been as she wanted it, Jason thought. On the one hand he felt a real pity for her, but on the other he admired her for going on through life regardless.
As they reached her home, she bid him farewell.
“You are a kind person. Thank you a lot. I wish there were more people like you. Goodbye.”
Jason was astonished. And proud. Proud of himself. Maybe helping old people was not that bad after all? He tracked back to the street where he met the old woman and crossed over. He knew he was doing the right thing.
And this would not be the last time for him to cross this street, for it was not the last time he helped the old woman. Many visits made them good friends.