Meeting Mr. Washington

On Friday I posted about this chain letter I had received. Interestingly enough, I received one comment, which I think is spam, berating me for the subject and misinformation. If the comment wasn’t spam, I would like to declare (since clearly it was missed by the individual while reading it) that the e-mail was sent to me. I thought the meaning of the e-mail was the important thing.

At any rate, I said I would post something about my daughter on Saturday, but didn’t have a chance to. Now, here we are on Monday and I have a moment so I wanted to post the piece.

This originally appeared in The Horror Library Blog-O-Rama, back in 2007. I’ve gone through it and changed a few things, but kept the story the way it originally appeared.

Sit back, enjoy…

So we’re different colors
And we’re different creeds
And different people
Have different needs
It’s obvious you hate me
Though I’ve done nothing wrong
I’ve never even met you
So what could I have done
I can’t understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand
People are people
So why should it be
You and I should get along so awfully…

–Depeche Mode
People Are People

I’m going to go ahead and apologize for this article right now. Why? Well, it’s not really about horror and it’s also not about writing.

In light of the world around us and my ever watchful eye on my surroundings, I write, yet another blog on people. If you are bored with these types of things go ahead and hit the GO BACK key now. But, if not and you want a nice little story in the end, stick with me and read on.

In our world of terrorism, hate crimes, men murdering their wives and vice versa, school shootings, rapes; athletes doing things they shouldn’t do, young actresses and actors delving more into the drugs and sex and alcohol, all of which provides negative exposure for our children to see, it’s a struggle just to keep kids on the right track.

The glitz and the glamour are out there and, now more than ever, our children are faced with pressures that some of us can’t even fathom. A lot of kids think that money just magically appears out of thin air and they want everything. Children have cell phones and Facebook pages and access to things many of their parents didn’t have at the same age. The struggle to be in the “in crowd” is more prevalent these days. The bad boy image haunts us both in our boys and girls.

Our world is a mess.

And through all of this negativity we have to figure out how to teach our children the values of life; teach them morals. It’s hard when there are children under the age of six living next door to you using curse words that begin with F and end with K followed by a YOU, or an OFF. It’s hard when other children get what they want and pitch a holy fit until they get it and your child sees it. It’s hard when the world dictates something other than what you are preaching, especially where religion is concerned.

My best friend is a black man from Philadelphia. My family is of Cherokee background. My dad is a mountain boy. My next door neighbors to one side are Mexican and lovely people. I won’t go into the other side, simply because there’s not much positive to say, so I won’t go there.

People are people. Just as the song says. We all have feelings and opinions, whether some of us want to admit it or not.

With that in mind, I would like to tell you a brief story.

Every morning, my wife gets up and takes me to work—we have two vehicles, but these few minutes are really the only time during the day that we have alone. In the evenings she picks me up and the kids are with her. So, really, if you have kids, you understand that each alone minute is worth it’s weight in gold.

But that’s not what this is about.

When my daughter was six-years-old, we had one vehicle, so these morning trips to the office were accompanied by our two children. Chloe is a very observant girl–she always has been–and every morning for a while she would see this man on a street corner sitting on a bucket. He was an older black man with a gray beard. He looked like he may have been homeless. Every morning my daughter asked, “Daddy, who is that guy?”

“I don’t know,” I usually said.

One day the man wasn’t at the corner, sitting on his usual bucket. My daughter got worried and asked where he was and if he was okay.

“I don’t know,” was my response.

The following Monday he was back at his usual spot and my daughter was elated. So elated in fact, that she said, “Daddy, I want to make that man a card. Can I do that?”

“Sure, Sweets (that’s what I call my daughter), you can if you want to.”

When we got home that evening, she made the man a card using card stock my wife had, markers and stickers. On the inside she wrote: “I just wanted to make you this card. I hope you like it. Love, Chloe.” She put it in a red envelope and proceeded to decorate the envelope. On it she wrote: To you, From Me.

The next morning she got in the car, card in hand and told me she wanted to give it to him. We drove the same route as alwaysand, sure enough, there he was, sitting on his bucket, looking out at the world passing him by. I pulled over and parked the car by the road and turned to my daughter.

“Come on,” I said.

“I don’t want to get out, Daddy,” she said, her nerves getting to her. I was kind of glad—that means she’s listening when I told her not to talk to strangers unless Mommy and Daddy are present.

She asked me if I would take the card to him, so I did.

“Excuse me, Sir,” I said as I approached him. “Can I talk to you for just one second?”

He turned his brown eyes to me and I saw a kindness in them and I knew he wasn’t going to go crazy on me.

I explained to him about my daughter and how she saw him everyday and even got worried about him when he wasn’t there. I held out the card to him and said, “My daughter made this for you because she wanted you to know that someone cares for you.”

He took the card and I watched as tears welled up in his eyes. He opened it up and read it. I thought he was going to cry.

“You tell your daughter this is the nicest thing anybody has ever done for me.” I believe every word that came out of his mouth.

I shook his hand and talked to him for a few more minutes, never minding that I was going to be late to work.

“Can I ask you a question?” I said.

He nodded. “Sure.”

“Can you, please, tell me your name so I can tell my daughter.”

He smiled. “J.L. Washington.”

“Mr. Washington, it was nice to meet you.”

I turned to go and he said a few other things, not much but enough to know my daughter had really touched this man. “Thank you. May God bless you and your family. Thank you.”

In the Bible it says, “Do unto the least of these and you’ve done unto Me.”

Sometimes in our society of violence and sex and stupidity and greed, a six year old child speaks the loudest by an act of kindness, an act of love. As you go about your day, look at the children near you, and remember that, if we are to have any future, then we need to raise them up right with morals and humility.

And, one more thing: People are people. Different colors or beliefs shouldn’t matter. We’re all flesh and blood and one act of kindness really can go a long way to making the world a better place to live in and to raise children in.

Until we meet again, my friends…

[[Herbie’s Notes: This happened nearly five years ago. Since then, I have learned that Mr. Washington has passed away. The news of his death saddened me.

Also, Mr. Washington became a focal point in my (as yet unpublished) novel, Cory’s Way.]]

One thought on “Meeting Mr. Washington

  1. That was a very moving story about Mr. Washington and your “Sweets”. Ya’ll have some great children and they have great parents!!! 🙂


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