Amazing Grace

I got lost today.

I was found today.

Spun around on my path and pointed in the right direction by a young man named Corran, pronounced “Koran”- just like the holy book.

If my son hadn’t been in the minivan with me, I might have chalked it up to my vivid imagination, but I have a witness to this lovely stranger who climbed in my backseat today.

So I was lost..pretty much in my own little neighborhood.  I was taking my son to a job fair at a retirement community just a couple of miles from our home.  It is easy to find for sure, but once we drove beyond the locked gates, a small city was revealed..and since I can get lost looking for the deli in Wegman’s (true story)…well.   The guard took one look at my coiffed teenage son and knew exactly where we were going and stated “follow the car in front of you” and hurried us along.  The fair was bringing teens in by the dozens to vie for dining room positions, and while I was astounded by my son’s recent response of ..”oh, you wanted me to empty ALL the dishes from the dishwasher?”..I encouraged him to apply and give it a shot, and if he stays for two years, he may be eligible for their scholarship fund that the residents generously chip in for and award to deserving  employees as they head off to college.

I followed the car in front of me as instructed, chatting with my son, prepping him for the interview in air conditioned comfort, and followed..and followed..until it became obvious that the lead car in our little adventure had no clue where she was going, and we all ended up back at the starting line. Once  the caravan of clueless parents and teens were pulled over, I took the bull by the horns and told everyone to stay put and ran over to the guard house to get directions and let my displeasure be known, by God.  I was starting to break a sweat and my little darling was getting nervous.

  • I impatiently questioned a young man who was also waiting to talk to the gatekeeper..”do you work here?” which he replied “No ma’am..I am here for a job fair and I have been walking a long time, I got lost ..I am hoping they will call me a shuttle.”   Dear Lord, it was hot, and he was dressed in clothes that were the attempt of a boy to look dressed up, long dark pants and a heavy blue, cardigan  sweater , substituting as a suit jacket.  He looked miserable. I got directions and offered him a ride.

He told me his name was Corran, after a “what up bro? ” greeting to my son, and hopped in the back of the van.  I was leading the caravan this second trip around, chatting with my new passenger and glancing at my silent son who looked to be in disbelief that I had just invited this stranger into our car. Worlds colliding.

Corran told me that he took the bus to get to the job fair, it took about an hour.  The bus stop is a steep walk up a long hill to the gates. The walk alone would be intolerable…and that was just on our end.  He boarded his bus down on North Avenue where he lives..”that’s in Baltimore City M’am”.  He said “Baltimore City” like he was in a foreign country now ,despite the fact that I could see the city skyline from the front seat of my car.

Yes, I wanted to say, of course I know North Avenue..the whole world knows North Avenue after the riots and burning of this year.  The horror and anger of those days are still fresh, the neighborhoods still disaster zones, the murder rate setting new records every day.  I have been bouncing between outrage, sadness and resignation on nearly a daily basis..and my heart aches from all of it…so yes, I know North Avenue.

west north avenue

Corran told me how he hopes to get the job at the retirement community, he needs to save for college.  I couldn’t imagine the effort he would be making to get to work after school.  He was the same age as my still very quiet, front- seat sitting son..who would be  hand delivered to this place of employment just minutes from home.  Suddenly I felt sorry..but not for Corran.

The boys made it to their interview, and I thought I had seen the last of Corran, until he showed up side by side with my son afterwards.  He asked for a ride back to the gates, which I happily obliged and extended the ride to the bus stop down that steep hill…honestly, I wasn’t ready to see him go.  He seemed pleased with the interview and was excited about his chances.  When he jumped out and gave a little wave, my heart was full of hope for this determined boy..and something else …for the first time in months, my heart was hopeful for Baltimore, for humanity.

Stay strong Corran, you are what’s right and good ..the world needs you.  I hope we meet again.

sunrise sea isle again

14 thoughts on “Amazing Grace

  1. Tess, this was a truly profound posting. You were able to show so clearly how this young man opened your eyes to the very different worlds within your own area and city. The steep hill he needed to climb to get into the retirement community is just like the steep climb he needs to make on a daily basis to overcome all the obstacles in his path. You immediately realized that his wearing a sweater on a hot day was what he had to do to substitute for a suit. I loved how natural it was for you to help him get to the interview and then back to the bus stop. The difference between how easy it was for your son to get to the job fair and the enormous struggle for Corran to arrive there was told so simply. It is a message that needs to be shown because too many people of privilege [meaning middle-class] have no clue to what lower-income people have to overcome every day. It is amazing to me that people who have to exert so much energy just to get to their jobs don’t give up.

    You were found. I think this was a good life lesson for your son as well. I hope Corran and your son both get those jobs. I truly hope Corran gets a scholarship for all his determination. I am a social activist and your story did more than any article or posting about the struggles of the ‘inner city’. Your love for Baltimore was evident. Your compassion for a young man trying to get to an interview was admirable – it felt to me that it sprang from your reaction as a mom – and you showed that it does take a village – that when we truly see what another has to go through just to get to where others can so easily arrive. I absolutely loved this story. Nicely told.

    • Thank you Anna..we need more people like you too. I have been a nurse in Baltimore City hospitals for 20 years and have found myself moving towards a place of disgust and was good to be reminded and to be in the presence of this young man. Yes, the efforts made to get to a low paying job…Corran seemed heroic to me yesterday..but it was perfectly normal for him…I hope he gets the job too.

  2. This is such an important observation and I sincerely hope that your casual kindness (as always) helps to make a difference in both Corran and Brennan’s life.Once again, I am moved by your writing.

  3. The saying ‘everyone comes into our lives for a reason, a season or for life’ comes to mind here Tess; what a beautifully written, heart-felt piece that says so very much about America to me, from my comfortable seat Across the Pond. Corran has definitely come to you for a reason, which I think has something to do with angels. How lucky for you! The real thing is that you recognised this visit for what it is and in sharing your experience, you’ve helped someone very far away to rekindle their belief in karma too. Thank you!

    • Thank you Liz! I am thrilled to think that people far away are touched..I think a gentle ripple could create that wave of love we all desperately need. I think you are right..he is a messenger of sorts.

  4. So beautifully written, Tess. It gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes – always a good thing! Anna Mae said it all. Thank you for sharing this experience.

    • Thank you Pam for reading, it was a powerful experience..and one that keeps on giving..I think I am more moved today than I was last week..something about that kid!

  5. Tess,
    Corran sounds very much like many of my students. My school community, over the past 6 years or so, has become populated with refugees from the city. They are escaping violence, crumbling schools and bleak futures. Many of my students are from the area where the most destruction took place and had relatives whose cars were burned or windows were smashed. These are the invisible of Howard County and there are more of them than most people know. Young people in general are great. They are funny, have a lot of conflicting emotions, and have big dreams for the future. Not perfect, but not monsters either. I am indeed fortunate to see this on a daily basis. There is indeed great hope for the future—just look at your sons and think of Corran whenever you doubt that.

  6. Tess, I love all your writing but this was so profound and beautiful. You were honest and genuine. You were entitled and you were humbled. You were in charge and you were led. You knew how to school your kid…and you got schooled by a kid. I may use this piece in my GED Reading class in Baltimore, if I may. It is absolutely wonderful. Thank you for your writing and your open heart.
    P.S. For some reason, this didn’t come up in my feed until Sat–my birthday! Thanks for the present!! I love it!!!
    P.P.S. I loved all the comments from other readers and like Bonnie, I also really enjoyed Anna Mae’s response.

    • Oh are making me cry..I would be absolutely honored if you used this in any way you saw are such a wonderful teacher…feel free to correct the grammar.. Haha!

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