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I'm a new entrepreneur. My child left for law school, and I have just enough freedom now to realize a long-held dream: working for myself while serving others.

My new freedom allows me to rush home some afternoons -- to feed my dog, eat lunch, pick up the mail. This last time I met a young man canvassing the neighborhood. We saw each other. We both looked surprised. He was a handsome African-American in his late teens, crisp though modest in his dress shirt, tie and slacks. My background is Creole, one of a few brown and black residents in my mostly white neighborhood.

He tentatively offered to sell me a subscription. With a painful though earnest expression, he started to unfold a heavily creased set of papers with a photo ID and a list. I stopped him. "I can't," I said. "I'm in a hurry. Do you have a flyer? Can you send me something?" He didn't and couldn't. He gave his head half a shake, and turned away.

The last time like this involved a slightly younger black kid. He told me he was bussed in from Oakland and couldn't come back later. I bought a bottle of miracle cleaner from him, even though I knew the wire brush he used was most of the miracle and the product was severely overpriced.

This young man headed off for the next house, the next hustle. But in me, he had seen something unexpected. I saw his posture change. He turned and asked for water. I gladly filled a bottle. "We have too many of these," I said. Then I had to finish up, get back to work. In the car I found myself searching the neighborhood before heading back. I wanted to do more, say something. But what? What turned my child toward a marketable future?


I wonder if I can show up the next time a youngster shifts perspective. If the third time's a charm, then maybe I'll be lucky enough to counsel, support and redirect a young life, and not just drive away.

With a Perspective, I'm Rose Lawrence.