A Friend When I Needed One

I’ve mentioned several times about my experiences living in Edgar, Nebraska as a first grader. A recent conversation with my mom reminded me of one particular experience I’d like share with you.

As a six-year-old I met the daily challenges of most folks of my age: watchful first grade teachers, dogs who liked to chase bicycles and a watchful parent making sure I didn’t get into too much mischief. Unfortunately, I encountered about the worse thing a young boy could encounter: at least I thought so at the time–a six year old girl who had designs on my spare time: for the rest of my life.

I went through a daily ritual after school each day. As I exited the school I heard that feminine voice that struck fear in my friends and myself (I’ll avoid the name to avoid any latent embarrassment on everyone’s part). The shout of my name set my legs in motion before my brain had hardly the chance to engage the relationship between my name being called and what the consequences would be if I got caught. You see this femme fatale had designs on my returning to her home after school to help with homework, enjoy some homemade cookies and watch television. That wouldn’t be so bad except she had already decided we were going to get married. As you know any self-respecting 6 year old male is too busy worrying about baseball, bicycles with playing cards in the spokes to make it sound like a motorcycle and avoiding evening baths. The even thought of a constant female companion was more than my psyche could tolerate, so the race would be on.

For clarification, my parents were good friends with this young lady’s parents making the whole situation even more challenging. I had been told numerous times to be polite and “act like a gentleman:” hard to do when you don’t even know the definition of a “gentleman” yet.

Back to the race. My goal was to make the four blocks at a dead run, knowing that I would be exhausted by that time. My strategy? I knew there was a friend waiting there to rescue me. That friend happened to be my grandpa. My grandad had developed a new vocation after he retired: town observer and it didn’t take him long to figure out my plight. Early on in the school year, I found him parked in front of the local diner sitting in his 1959 Chevy Impala, “just killing time.”

If I made it to where he was parked, I would get a ride home and usually a snack to boot. I learned later that he looked forward to our visits and it’s something that I can hold onto as a fond memory. Not only did he rescue me but he was able to keep a straight face as I described my fate of being pursued by my paramour.

I had the opportunity to visit with my grandad on my trip home. I’d also find him sitting in front of the tire store sipping soda and talking to his buddies about the general state of the world. The men are all gone now but I still remember their willingness to tolerate my youthful ignorance.

So what’s this got to do with the state of things in Northfield? Consider what impact you could have on a young guy with his own dilemma. Unfortunately these days, things are more serious than a youthful attraction. Take the time to mentor a young man or young woman. The time you spend with them can and will make a difference.

About Gary Smith

Chief Smith has served over 31 years in the criminal justice field. He is currently a consultant assisting public and private organizations better establish community goals and ethical conduct with the members of their organizations. Chief Smith serves as a facilitator, lecturer, professor and other capacities both inside and outside the criminal justice field.
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