An opportunity I almost missed

Friday night, circa 7pm.

“Hello, sorry to have disturbed you while you’re with your family. I’m just going round to see if you’d like to buy some things I have. I’m on a youth offenders scheme and trying to make amends by earning money doing this. If you have a minute, I can show you what I have. If not, I’ll make my way on with a smile on my face.”

The kid was 20 years old. I told him I didn’t have a minute as I was with my family. This was no lie, I really was. They were huddled round me at the doorstep. He said Thais and went off on his way. And then I got the worst sense of guilt I have felt in a long time. Why did I turn him away? Because he troubled me? Because he looked like a bit of a scruffien? Because I didn’t want to part with my money? I don’t know, maybe all of the above, maybe some other stuff.

Minutes later I went looking for him. We live on a closed estate, so finding him wasn’t going to be hard, my only fear was he’d have simply moved on to the main road. I found him, and told him to head back to mine once he’d finished. He said he was due to finish and was happy to come on over there and then.

Me: You look like you’ve had a hard day?
Him: you really don’t know how hard it’s been mate.
Me: What are you doing this for?
Him: I did some pretty bad stuff a whie ago, and I’ve come to realise that if I want to have a better life for myself, I need to try and make something of myself. I reckon if I can do this, I can do anything. I’ve got myself on a engineering course at college, and I need money to help me get through it.
Me: Sounds like a good plan you’ve got for yourself there. Are you from round here?
Him: No, I’m from Derby. (I live in Epping – more than 200 miles from his home town).
Me: Blimey! Look, I’m sorry i turned you away at first, but I was getting ready to put my kids to bed.
Him: It’s ok, I understand I have a two year old myself.

At my house, he went on to show me what he had in his bag. Simple household type goods – sponges, oven mitts, tumble dryer balls, micro fibre cloths. And some car cleaning stuff too – chamois leather cloths, car sponges. He explained he gets half of what he sells. The other half goes to the agency helping him to do this work.

I agreed to buy some items, and showed him to the door. Before he left I had to give him some advice. His starting story was bang on the mark. He was very humble in his approach, explained enough about what he was trying to do, and never tried to pull on my heart strings with lines like – oh go on mate, if you don’t help me out I’ll go hungry. He kept it simple and short. That’s why I went after him. I believed his story and felt he was genuine.

There was some advice from my days at QVC that I thought could serve him well too. Essentially he’s doing the same job they do. Selling day to day items and trying to make them seem attractive.

I was struck at this kid’s strength and determination to do better for himself. He fully recognised what was going on in the world, and how people can react to him. I didn’t want to be another person that let this guy down. He looked like he’d had enough knocks. I don’t know what the future holds for him. I wish him well. I hope he’s able to truly learn and pick himself up from this work he’s doing, and is able to go on and complete his engineering course. And further down the line I hope he’s able to provide for his child and raise him with the set of values that he seems to now be learning for himself.

True story.

Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

2 thoughts on “An opportunity I almost missed”

  1. Lovely story Sukh, thanks for sharing. We take chances when we take strangers at face value. But in my view, so much better to give the benefit of the doubt than to assume ulterior motives. I’ve been conned through trusting someone in a similar situation, and my only hope was at some point he would realise there was a better way to live. May sound naive, but I will always continue to believe the best in people, even when some behave otherwise. Good luck to ‘your guy’. Alison

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