When I entered the Safeway to pick up a few dinner items I wondered if I would see B. working. Sure enough, I did. As he said, “I am always here.”
Not quite true, but true enough. He is a hard-working young man, and has been working at our local grocery store for a number of years. That in itself is no small feat. Judging from the number of new faces and “Now Hiring” signs I see there, the turnover is high. But there he is again tonight, tidying up the bouquets in the flower section, cheerful as ever.
I got to know B. because he is also a student in the accounting class I am taking at our Junior College. This is my third semester of accounting classes, which is unbelievable to me. Somehow, at my advanced age, I have fallen in love with accounting. That is another story.
B. has been in all of my classes so we always chat about it when I see him at Safeway and sometimes we help one another with notes if the one of us has to miss class. He is smart and capable and does well in class, even though he often has a full college course load along with his full-time job.
One afternoon at Safeway we talked a little more about his studies and plans. I knew he was one of many Mexican-Americans in our town, but did not know much else of his story. What he told me made me him admire him more.
I may not have all the facts right as I share them with you, but it goes something like this: He was born here and went to school in the U.S. until second grade, and then his family returned to Mexico. He completed all of his elementary and preparatory (high school) education there, in Spanish. When he was able to return to the U.S. he enrolled in college, where he has to take a lot of basic English classes just to be able to catch up to the other kids. Math is the common language we all have, so he usually excels there.
This is not an unusual story and variations of it are all around us, yet I still cannot help but admire what he is doing. Going to college is hard. Working full-time and going to college is harder. And doing both of those while trying to catch up on your language stills seems monumental to me. For such a young guy to be doing this fills me with hope and pride and respect.
He just smiles and stocks the flowers and I know that I am in the presence of a local hero.