Christian, 17, asked me to help mentor him so that he could go to college. I agreed. I thought, why not? The cost to me was small. The payoff, if done right, would be high. It could change his life.
I made a few phone calls to people I knew. I had him sorted out. We got him enrolled in a SAT prep class.
When he saw me at the boxing gym, he kept asking my shoe size. I didn't know why. I said, "Eight and a half to nine, depending on the make of the shoe."
The next day, he brought me a pair of black Adidas boxing shoes. He said, "Hey Paul, try them on." I untied the laces. I put my foot in each one. They fit snugly.
He smiled. "Do they feel good?" Christian asked.
"Ja, I think so," I said.
He pressed on the tip of the shoe and felt for my toes, like parents do for their children. "They're good, Paul."
I smiled back and said, "I guess you're right."
I trained in them that day. But I had to go home early because of all the phone calls I was getting. I can't believe I logged over 4,000 minutes of airtime on my cell phone last month! That's almost three days of straight talking.
I came back to the gym, but Christian was gone. Julian, the head boxing coach, asked me if I wanted to get some yogurt in downtown, Baldwin Park. I said I did.
But as he drove me to the yogurt place I said, "Hey, we need to go back and get Christian. He got me these boxing shoes."
So, Julian turned around and drove to get Christian. Julian bought me my yogurt. I had pomegranate. Christian complained he didn't want to get fat, but he still overloaded his yogurt with all kinds of toppings: chocolates, and candies, and whatnot. I bought Christian his yogurt.
We sat outside and enjoyed our dessert in the dying sunlight. We spooned all of it from our cups, until it was gone. I thanked Christian for the shoes. He said it wasn't a problem. Then, Julian dropped him home.
I told Julian, "I almost forgot to thank him because of all the craziness going on in my life. But you know, what else could a kid give you? I'm not rich, but I can afford my own boxing shoes. But it's still a gift I can't buy myself."
"Yeah," Julian said.
"But for him - he gave me something from the heart. His boxing shoes."
"It means a lot when another boxer gives you their old equipment."
That act of kindness gave me hope for the City of Baldwin Park.
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