Paul Callan and Mark Jannitz stepped out from the office building and turned to the right. Sitting on the ground was a young girl with a blanket wrapped around her holding a cup and a sign with a string draped around her neck asking for donations.
Mark reached into his pocket and pulled out a bill and placed it in the cup.
“God bless you,” the girl smiled and looked toward Paul.
Paul turned his head away and started walking. “Why do you encourage her?” he asked when Mark caught up to him.
“I’m not encouraging her,” he replied. “She’s just a kid. Who knows what her situation is that’s got her out here begging.”
Paul looked at him. “Don’t be so damn naïve all the time. She’s probably out here because her mother’s at home with a bunch of illegitimate kids and don’t get enough from welfare. Trust me, you’re not helping her, you’re enabling her.”
Mark shook his head. “Why are you so bitter and callous?”
Paul avoided answering. Inside the restaurant, he said, “We need to get moving on this project or we’ll both be sucking our thumbs if the jungle drums are right.”
“Have you heard anymore about whether the company is going to just down-size or close?”
“Not a thing. I believe I have enough years to keep me locked in if they have cut-backs.”
Mark cleared his throat. “I don’t want to sound like I have cold feet but are you certain this concept of ours will hold water?”
Paul stared into Mark’s eyes. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I’ve been testing the waters and I already have a few companies who are interested in marketing their services with us. They believe our marketing strategies are the best they’ve seen in years.”
Mark took a deep breath and sighed. “It’s going to take a lot of capital to get this off the ground. I mean, I’m risking everything.”
Paul nodded. “I know that. Look, we’ve been friends for years. I’m not going to send you to the poor farm like that kid we just passed.”
The men talked and ate their meal and then headed back to the office. Neither of them noticing the young girl had left.
Four days later, Mark got his notice that he was being let go. He walked into Paul’s office holding the slip up for Paul to see.
Paul stood up and walked around to the front of the desk. “I’m sorry. I heard it about three minutes before you got called into the conference room.” Seeing the worried looked on Mark’s face, he added, “We’ll be okay. I’ll make some phone calls this afternoon to see if I can get some appointments set up.”
At the end of the day, upset that he had failed to get any definite appointments, Paul left the office in a bad mood. Outside, he spotted the little girl sitting where she had been days before. When she looked up at him, he said, “Why don’t you go home and tell your mother to get a job.”
In spite of the hurt reflecting in her eyes, she still managed to smile at him and said, “Have a nice day.”
For the next two weeks, regardless of what time he entered or left the Weller & Wheir office building, Paul was confronted by the young girl collecting donations and each day, she would wish him a good day and each time he would grunt and walk past her, sometimes even saying cruel things.
On the following Wednesday, Paul was given his termination papers and packed up his personal belongings and carried them out of the building.
The young girl was sitting in her usual spot but instead of wishing him a good day, she simply said, “You know you shouldn’t be so angry all the time.”
That got his attention and he stopped and looked down at her with a scowl. “How old are you?”
“I’m twelve,” she answered, staring him straight in the eyes.
“Twelve, huh? Let me tell you something. You’re not old enough to be giving me advice. When you get old enough and have to work for a living instead of pan-handling, then you will know what the hardships in life are all about; then let’s see if you’re so happy then.”
At that, she smiled her usual smile and said, “Have a nice day.”
He shrugged his shoulders and stormed away. “Stupid kid,” he mumbled under his breath.
The very next morning, Paul and Mark got their first big break and landed an account. From that moment on they seemed to be in a whirlwind of events. Ironically, they were able to get a large office in the Weller & Wheir office building just four floors down from their former employer. They were on their way.
Each day, they encountered the young girl and each day, Mark gave her some money. Of course, Paul voiced his opinions and objections and ignored the young girl’s wishes to have a good day.
As the days passed, Paul realized he hadn’t seen the young girl sitting outside the office building collecting money. Finally, he made mention to Mark as they were going to lunch. “I see your friend hasn’t been coming around.”
Mark looked at him questioningly.
“The beggar,” Paul supplied.
Mark glanced down and then looked around. “You’re right,” he said. “I wonder what happened to her.”
“The cops probably nabbed her for vagrancy.”
Mark just shook his head and continued walking toward the restaurant.
At lunch time the next day, Mark stated, “I found out the kid’s in the hospital.”
Chelle Munroe ©
January 10, 2015