There’s a path behind my building of gravel and dirt. The weeds grow tall and wild. It’s a short cut to the employee parking lot. There are blue official signs on either side that read “Building employees and visitors prohibited past this point” yet many of us still take the path.
The approved way to get from the building to the parking lot is out the front door and to the sidewalk on the left, towards the highway overpass, down the 45 concrete stairs, take a right into the shadow of the building and walk to the end of the block, cross the street and walk another full block length to the parking lot. Once there, depending on what time you’ve arrived that day, you may have a spot up front or need another minute or two of walking to the far end of the spacious lot. This walk can take about 7 to 10 minutes depending on your pace. The path takes about 4 minutes from the elevator on the 11th floor to the lot. Of course you can always take the shuttle, which I always beat if I take the path.
To get to the path, you take a right out of the front door, go down a steep grassy hill where the footpath is worn and trodden. Exposed tree roots make for nice, natural steps but they can trip you up along with the loose rocks if you don’t pay attention. A short walk through a grassy field often sunny and warm during the late Spring and Summer months, through an open fence and a slight right turn onto the path. On the left, a tall metal fence “protects” the cars in the lot – some old, many new and expensive. The fence stands erect with shiny green plastic to partially block the view. On the right, a housing complex for lower-income families – not so much shiny and new in there.
There’s an old wooden fence leaning over in places, broken in others. The missing planks gives us a peek inside. Climbing vines and leaves from the canopy of trees provide some shade. Plastic toys, smashed fallen berries from the trees above, food wrappers and other garbage litters the path. That doesn’t mean it’s unsafe, doesn’t mean it’s dangerous, but some people won’t walk the path. Maybe because we’re “prohibited” and they’re not rule-breakers or because they prefer to take the shuttle. But some wont walk the path because they don’t want to interact with the residents of the housing complex.
— Picture above of a dirt trail with green grass on either side belongs to marcinbunsch’s photostream on Flickr – this is not the actual path.
As I walk the path on hot summer days, I see kids playing basketball on a small cement court. I hear babies splashing in a kiddie pool. I hear moms talking in Spanish. I see shine in the expressions of the young and hopeful. Little entrepreneurs taking advantage of an opportunity. As state employees take the prohibited path, quietly the kids approach. The shy one, Pedro, holds a box full of candy bars while another one asks politely, “Ma’am, would you like to buy candy for a dollar?”
They could be selling worse …
They don’t get mad if someone says no, they don’t get upset or disappointed. They move on to the next person walking by. I want to encourage them. I want to reward them. I don’t want their candy, I want their young hopeful minds, their dreams, their entrepreneurial spirits to grow and become something positive and successful. I want to make a difference, one dollar and one candy bar at a time.
Maybe I’m being naive. I know some of them will be swallowed up by the cycle of poverty – poor education, poor parenting, poor decision-making, poor so many things – but I have to believe that more than one will make it out.
This is the possibility of the path … one never knows where it may lead.
Originally Written on July 13, 2012