Kevin is a kid I met in Downtown Los Angeles – riding his bike and searching in trash cans for bottles to recycle. I see him all the time, so I promised myself that the next time I saw him, I’d ask him to tell me his story:
K – “ I’m 16, I have two younger brothers, and my mother works two jobs. I ride because I want to be a professional cyclist and it’s easier. I can make up to 15 bucks an hour depending upon how fast I ride. “
R – So you just ride, see something and stop to pick it up?
K – “Yup. I also get to spend time alone. I never get to do that at home.”
R – Good job young man. Your younger brothers need you.
K – “Thanks. I need them too.”
Kevin was dealt a tough hand in life, but he’s blessed with inner strength. I admire the calm reserve of this young man and I know that his future is brighter.
Curtis the Sax Man (as he calls himself) plays every Thursday evening for anyone willing to listen. I learned that he is a classically trained pianist who prefers the sax because it’s easier to travel with. Being a soloist allows him to play whatever he likes. I stumbled upon Curtis one night as I was exiting the subway on the corner of 7th & Figueroa. Curtis the Sax Man is homeless and if he didn’t tell me, I wouldn’t have known.
“ I play because I love music” – to which I responded, “ I stopped because I like what I’m hearing.” As I walked home, I thought about the challenges he must overcome every day. I look for him every Thursday now because I am cheering for him. I know the day is coming when I won’t see him on that corner again – at least – that is my wish. If I don’t see him, I know he’ll still be playing somewhere with the same passion.
I met an Asian husband & wife, Mr. & Mrs. Fong – selling $10 dollar sunglasses on the Venice Boardwalk. Their english was limited, but not their wish to succeed. I wanted badly to ask them their story, but it’s probably easier to connect the dots. Here’s my guess: They came here on vacation, loved it and decided to stay and open an accessories booth on the Venice boardwalk. Probably not right? Their story is probably more likely closer to this: emigrants looking for a better life. There are millions of stories in Los Angeles like that including my own parents. They have a daughter who was right by their side — watching & learning a lesson more valuable than money. The ability to keep pushing and persevere is not an easy discipline to master, but they’ve got a handle on it. Good for them.
I am a basketball player for a million reasons: Competition. Struggle. Reward. Lessons. Passion. Teamwork. Hustle. Collective problem solving. Sweat. Strength. Joy. Agony. Fun. Skill. Leadership. Learning. Life. I’ve been blessed with good health which allows me to continue and enjoy a game that has taught me so many life lessons.
There are thousands of outdoor places in Los Angeles to play and I’ve run up and down many courts, but for the last 15 years, I’ve maintained one indoor home court and I continue to count that court as one of many blessings. Nice facility, quality players & good people. That’s all I need and that’s all I ask for. I consider myself very fortunate.
I share with you a few of the many blessings I recognize each & every day. My days of wanting more have been replaced by acknowledging all that I have. I am grateful for Kevin, Curtis and the Fongs’ for providing some of those lessons. Stories of strength, perseverance and passion are always worth sharing — because it is a reminder that we are all fortunate & blessed in many ways.