Least or Most Likely to Succeed?
We met him at a Sonic Drive-In. Actually we met two nice young men who worked there.
The first kid came into the dining room portion of the fast-food restaurant on rollerskates. He is an old-fashioned car-hop, but apparently serves customers who dine in as well as those who dine from their cars.He had a big smile and friendly personality.
I asked him whether he was a good skater before he got the job. He told me he was pretty good before but had gotten a lot better. He showed us that he had learned to “moon-walk” like Michael Jackson, except on skates, which I think would be even more difficult.
Sugar asked if he was a senior in high school. He told us that he is only a freshman. However, he added, “That guy over there is a junior.”
That guy of whom the freshman was speaking had his back to us. Another employee, he was on his break.
He corrected the young skating car-hop. “Actually, I am going to college now.” Then he came over and sat at a table across from us.
The older kid said in a self-deprecating way, as the car-hop skated away, “He is only a freshman but he is already taller than me.”
Sugar asked the college man how old he was. He told us that he is seventeen. He should still be in high school, he explained, but had passed some achievement tests that allowed him to graduate from high school early and start college.
We were impressed. We congratulated him. He told us that he is a cook at Sonic and likes it so much that he wants to have his own restaurant someday and plans a college degree in business. He smiled the whole time he shared his goal. “I always get “A”s in math and I like the restaurant business so I think it would be fun to run my own restaurant.”
Then he changed the conversation away from himself and told us about the other kid, saying that freshman was the best car-hop in town. He praised him for never having one complaint in evaluations. He said that kid is great with people. He speculated that with such superior people skills, that kid would probably be a successful salesman or something someday. Again, he smiled as he talked with enthusiasm about the qualities of his younger co-worker.
We turned the subject back to the 17 year old college man/cook. Sugar asked if he cooked a lot at home. The answer floored us.
“I am in a foster home now, and don’t cook much there, but I come from a big family. I did most of the cooking when I lived with them because my stepmother is sort of lazy. There were 10 of us living in a mobile home, so we did not have enough beds. My older sister and I had been taken away from our mother due to some “issues” so we went to live with my Dad and stepmother after our Gramma could not take care of us anymore. They had some kids together and my stepmother had some other kids. It was kinda crowded in the trailer. My sister, who is a year older, and I, took care of the younger kids. When my Dad went to prison, the state took us. My mother had died by then, so we went to foster care. Some of the foster places were not good, but I have been in several since I was 12, and this one I’m in now is okay.”
He said something very mature, “It has been tough growing up, but now I think it will help me because I know how to work hard.”
We nodded in agreement. “Yes, in college you are competing with some kids who have been spoiled. You are used to managing your time and working hard. You have overcome so much that you are an unusually strong person,” I said.
He agreed, but added, again with humility, “Well, when I was little and lived with my Gramma, I got whatever I wanted, so I guess I was pretty spoiled then. I didn’t have any friends, probably because I always wanted to get my way. When Gramma couldn’t take care of us and we went to live with my Dad and stepmom, we had to share and do a lot of work. Sometimes my sister and I did not eat so the little kids could have enough. I used to be spoiled though. My best friend I met when I was twelve and we have stayed friends even when I move from foster homes.”
I told him that I admired him. “You overcame difficulties that would have brought many down. You could have quit school. You could have gotten in trouble with the law. You could have blamed your circumstances. Instead, you are really making something of yourself. People can’t control their circumstances, just how you respond to them.”
Sugar added, “I predict that you will be very successful. You already are, going to college early and working here at the same time. I was a high school teacher for many years. There aren’t many kids your age doing what you do.”
He smiled. Again. Then he said, “Well, it was sure nice to meet you. I enjoy talking to you, but my break is over and I need to get back in the kitchen.”
If I had a childhood like that fella, I don’t know how well I would have handled it. Even with a secure home, I did not graduate early to get into college early. Sugar and I joked that our daughters should have absolutely nothing to complain about in comparison to that fine young man.
I have a feeling that Sugar’s prediction will come true. We met someone very likely to succeed.