While at Hickory Pit a week or so ago I happened to sit one table away from what looked like a man and his nephew having lunch together. Their affection for one another was apparent, and as the young man told the older about what was going on in his life, the elder listened intently.
By the same token, when the young man talked about some of the career choices in front of him after graduating from college a year or two ago, it was obvious he respected the older man and valued his opinion. While not 100% certain, I’d bet my bottom dollar they were uncle and nephew.
The last part of the conversation caught my attention, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
Nephew: “You want to go with me?”
Uncle: “No thanks, you go ahead.”
Nephew: “Don’t you want to help?”
Uncle: “You think you’re going to help somebody, or do you just like the energy of the crowd? Be honest.”
Nephew: “I do like the energy, but I truly want to help.”
Uncle: “Look, if you really want to help someone – be they black, white, blue, or green – befriend a homeless person and take him a meal. Or volunteer at a community soup kitchen. Or coach a team of underprivileged kids.”
“Better yet, start a team for kids or teenagers that wouldn’t have the opportunity to play otherwise. Help them collect equipment if they can’t afford it. Get to know a young man or woman and tutor him or her on the weekends. Go beyond tutoring, build a relationship, and become a mentor. And if you really get ambitious one day, give a kid a home who wouldn’t have one otherwise.”
“If you have more money than time as you get older, help a family with their utility bills. Give to someone who needs it or sell at a discount one of your old vehicles instead of trading it in the next time you buy a new car. Help a family navigate our banking system and show them how to refinance a loan. Co-sign on a note to help a family get their initial mortgage loan.”
Nephew: “None of that sounds easy.”
Uncle: “It’s often not.”
Nephew: “Do you always see results?”
Uncle: “Not always. Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t. And sometimes results come later, when you’re not around to see.”
Nephew: “I’m not sure I can do that.”
Uncle: “I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I haven’t done myself. I have confidence in you.”
A long silence ensued, and from my vantage point I could see the internal debate the young man was having. Finally, the nephew replied, “I think I’ll just go tear down a statue and tweet about it.”