About a week ago I made the fatal mistake of dropping my phone, mid rush hour traffic, on the Brown Line train station in the center of The Loop. This experience gave me a new outlook on the community of Chicago we live in as a whole and its comparison with the safe, secluded community we appreciate at Latin.
About fifteen minutes after my ridiculous mishap I became aware of my awful luck and quickly called my phone, hoping I had simply lost it among the many books and folders in my bag. As my phone rang I heard nothing, yet after the 5th time, a man answered. A sinking pit formed in my stomach as I attempted to accept the fact that my phone, the small rectangle that held everything about my life, was in the hands of a man with the capacity to never return it. As I spoke desperately with the man, begging him to bring back my phone, he told me he was already home in the south suburbs and couldn’t just come back. I panicked and gave him my father’s number, hoping there was something he could do to help get out of this unfortunate mess.
As I nervously waited, the man agreed to return my phone and meet us at his office building the next day. I realized my true luck that a man would willingly return such a valuable item of mine; my family just kept reminding me of this. I realized that as much as we promote the crime and danger of Chicago, we forget the people who make us a community. We forget the kind people who hold doors open, help those in need cross the street, and return phones. In Latin you can leave your laptop out in a lounge for hours and still find it in perfect shape when you return. The majority of us leave our backpacks outside the cafeteria with no fear of theft.
The next morning as we met the kind man he handed me my phone and we attempted to offer a reward but the man refused. Instead he told me, “Keep your money, I’m well off and don’t necessarily need it but there are so many people out there who do. You got lucky that I got your phone and gave it back so please pass that on to someone else. Pay it forward any way you can and that is reward enough.” I realized that I had never imagined a person outside of our safe confines to be so kind and giving and that truly opened my eyes to the amount of people out there willing to help each other out. I think of this moment often while trying to find a way to pay it forward and hope that anyone reading this finds it in themselves, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, to do so and in turn make not just the community of Latin, but our Chicago community as a whole, a better place.