The notes were filled with grammatical errors but the messages were loud and clear. I was “mean”, “didn’t pay fair”, “smelled like butt”, and “they quit”! The 4 employees that I hired weekly to “keep our block clean” were no longer interested in working for Mr. Allyn and had taped their official letters of resignation to my front door with zebra print duct tape.
Aiden, Paige, Makayala, and Neazia were quitting their job. A job that consisted of walking up and down the 500 block of McCabe Avenue with litter sticks and picking up pieces of trash. A job that only consumed around 15 minutes of their Saturday morning and put 6 dollars plus tip into their pockets weekly. Why you might ask? Because I told them not to play in a neighbor’s backyard.
It was a Saturday afternoon and I was packing my car for a quick trip to Baltimore when I heard the laughs of Aiden, Paige, Makayala and Neazia coming from my neighbor’s yard. The only way to get in my neighbor’s backyard was to climb through a tiny hole in her fence, a hole that was probably created by these same kids. “Hey, what are you guys doing back there, that’s not your backyard” I questioned? “You can’t just play in other people’s backyards get from back there” I yelled. The 4 kids quickly sprinted through my neighbor’s front yard and down the street to their house. I simply shook my head, attempted to fix my neighbor’s gate, and was off to Baltimore.
I didn’t think twice about the incident until I returned home to see “I Don’t Like You” and “You smell like Butt” attached to my front door. Really, I wondered? How dare these ungrateful ragamuffins? I remember looking at the letters upset, angered, disappointed and sad. Here I am trying to help out some inner city kids and this is how they repay me. As I took each letter off my door I vowed that I was done with these ungrateful and disrespectful workers.
When returning home from the gym a couple weeks later, I saw my former workers outside playing. Before I could finish parking my car, Aiden, Paige, Makayla, and Neazia were running towards my car screaming “Mr. Allyn, Mr. Allyn”. Aiden got to me first and quickly said “We left you some notes in your mailbox”. “You guys quitting again” I asked as I walked towards my front door. “Please read them,” Paige insisted. Her tone was desperate and I knew these letters would contain a very different message from the ones I received a couple of weeks ago.
Inside my house, I unfolded the letters to see “I’m Sorry”! “I will never quit again”! “Can we please work again”? And my personal favorite “your backyard is decorated very nice”. Before a smile could come across my face, my former workers were already standing on my front porch awaiting my response. I stepped out onto my patio holding the letters and was immediately greeted with, “We’re Sorry” by all 4 in unison. I was fully prepared to give Aiden, Paige, Makayla, and Neazia a long lecture on being grateful, and name calling but was stopped in my tracks as Paige said “Mr. Allyn you should forgive us because I’m sure you have been forgiven”.
Paige was just 5 years old but forced me to contemplate all the times that God, family, friends, and a laundry list of others have forgiven the many mistakes I have made. How could I not forgive these kids? I’m certain I will need plenty more forgiveness in my lifetime and how can I expect to be forgiven if I can’t find it in my heart to forgive these children? I walked back inside grabbed the gloves, litter sticks, and trash bags because it was time for me to forgive and re-hire my McCabe Ave Clean Up Crew.