When my son was young, I would get a $10 roll of quarters, take him to the arcade, and let him play to his heart’s delight. One Saturday I took him and his buddy Brian, gave them both handfuls of quarters and told them to come back when they needed more. They gleefully (is that a word?) ran to the video machines, shooting, swatting,jumping, and getting to the next level.
My son came back over to me and asked for more quarters. I gave him another handful. A bunch of kids were standing by watching.
One young African-American kid watched and then courageously and politely asked if he could have a quarter. I was surprised–a million thoughts ran through my brain. First was a throwback to Dicken’s Scrooge: How dare the poor ask for help? Get a job! This thought shocked and embarrassed me. He was a young boy, maybe 8 years old.
Then of course was the 200-year old race issue staring me in the face.
Next came another uncomfortable feeling. He was trying to take advantage of me. Play me. Take advantage of my good nature. If I give him a quarter, I am a sucker. A stooge.
I took a deep breath, and took another look at him. Then I saw myself in him. I was once an 8 year old kid, asking my father for a quarter for something–and was told “no!”
Within milliseconds this all flashed through my mind.
Still stunned, I asked him, “what?” so that I could buy some time to make my decision.
“May I have a quarter please?” He stared down at his shoes, afraid to look me in the eye, like a guy asking a pretty girl for a date.
Yes, I gave him the quarter. He smiled, said “thank you” and ran off.
I thanked God that I had a handful of quarters for my son to have a great day at the arcade; my parents would not have been able to do that.
And I thanked God that I could give a kid a few minutes of enjoyment on a Saturday afternoon.