Work Ethic


By: Steven Keiths © 2010


          Sal had watched the boy, had seen that he was getting more disheartened as the lunch crowd ignored him: his pleas for coins had become softer, less hopeful. “Spare change, mist..?” he’d try to say, only to have the men push past him time and again, oblivious to anything but their hunger and tight schedules, sometimes almost knocking the boy down as they forced their way to the hot dog stand. The kid, who looked to be ten, maybe eleven, was wearing frayed jeans and a T-shirt that hung loosely on his slender frame. He had been hanging about since Sal had set up for lunch, panhandling, or at least trying to. Lunchtime on Wall Street, with the hustle and bustle of stressed businessmen rushing to grab a quick bite to eat, was not the best time to be begging for coins. Sal, as he busily served hot dogs and sodas and bags of chips to the lunchtime crowd from his cart, kept glancing over at the boy, feeling progressively worse for the little guy as time passed with no money being dropped into his small, outstretched hand.


          The lunchtime rush finally ended. Sal took a deep breath and relaxed against his cart with a smile on his face. He’d had a profitable day. He started to pack away his things, then stopped. Turning, he took a look at the boy, now sitting on the ground with his head hanging. Sal walked over to him, reached down and touched the boy’s shoulder. The boy looked up, and Sal asked, “Hey, kid, how’d ya’ like to make a buck?”


          The boy’s eyes snapped wide open. “Uh, sure, Mister, what da’ ya’ want me ta do?”


          “Help me put all this stuff away and push my cart over to that pickup truck and hook it up.”


          The boy jumped up, and Sal showed him what needed to be done. The boy was eager to help, and a willing worker. Sweat formed on his brow as he struggled, strained and grunted, but he managed to get the ice chest moved despite its weight, then handed the remainder of the supplies to Sal until everything was loaded.


          “Watch your fingers,” Sal warned as they hitched the cart to the truck.


          When they were all done, and Sal was ready to get into his truck, he handed the kid a baggy containing five unsold hot dogs and buns. He also gave him two dollar bills.


          Smiling, the boy looked up at Sal and said, “Hey, thanks, Mister, uh, but, you made a mistake. This is two bucks!”


          “Yeah, well, you earned it. You did mosta’ the work.”


          The boy started to walk away, but after only two steps, stopped and turned to Sal, who was getting into his truck. The boy hesitated, then said, “Hey, Mister, if ya’ want, I can be here tomorra ta’ help ya.”


          Sal smiled. He admired someone who wanted to work. “Sure kid, and by the way, what’s yer name?”




          “Okay, Timmy, see ya’ tomorra.” Sal pulled away from the curb feeling good, knowing Timmy would have something to eat. The kid looked too thin.


          Timmy, neatly folding his money and putting it in his jean’s pocket, walked away also feeling good, and not only because he had something to eat. He had something else, something almost as good. He had something to look forward to tomorrow.