Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Rescuing A Lost Soul

"Give me your money," a desperate young man shouted at Oscar as he was about to close up his grocery store for the night. "I've got a gun."

"Don't do this," Oscar replied." You're going to be sorry for this money will never buy you peace or self-respect."

Stunned by the response, the would be robber was unable to utter another word as contradictory emotions swept through his mind. Anger, frustration, sympathy for himself, sympathy for his victim and most of all heartache for what he had stooped to overwhelmed him.

Finally he replied in a soft voice, "I don't know what else to do."

As his eyes welled up in tears he said, "Six years ago I did a very stupid thing. I stole a car and after the police caught me, I was charged with grand theft auto, a felony.

"Three months ago I was released from prison," the young man continued, "And now no-one will hire me because I'm a convicted felon."

"What is your name," Oscar asked him. "Jim," he answered. "Do you really have a gun," Oscar asked. "No," came Jim's reply. "I didn't have the heart to endanger anyone else but me. I can't do anything right, not even rob right."

"My name is Oscar. Tell me about yourself and your skills."

"I come from a troubled background," Jim answered. "My father left my mother and me when I was 6, and we struggled. Eventually my mother became an alcoholic and I grew up in foster care, never able to find a permanent home. No-one loved me enough to adopt me.

"I dropped out of school at 16," Jim added. "And I worked odd jobs to support myself. Then at 18 I stole the car, a Cadillac, because I wanted to know what it would be like to drive something so fancy.

"In prison I took classes and earned my high school equivalency diploma and then took college classes in business, accounting and in English, thinking I could get a job when I got out, but while I have the knowledge, I can't get a job. All I ever wanted was a break in life."

Oscar listened carefully and he studied Jim's eyes and his mannerisms as the young man spoke. Oscar is widely regarded as an excellent judge of character and well-known for having a big heart.

"I want you to come back tomorrow morning at 8 am," he told Jim. "I think I have a job for you cleaning the store and stocking the shelves. If that works out I'll teach you other parts of the business.

"For you see Jim, when I arrived from Mexico to the U.S. 30 years ago, I was your age and at first no-one would give me an opportunity. Then when all seemed lost, Charlie Wong, the owner of this store hired me.

"For the next 20 years I worked for him and we became like father and son. When Charlie retired, he gave the store and all of its equipment and inventory to me as a gift.

"Now I'm going to offer you a job, just as Charlie did for me so many years ago and we will see how it works out."

"Thank you," answered Jim stunned but with glee still absorbing all that had transpired. And I'm sorry about trying to rob you."

The next morning, Jim arrived promptly at 8 am dressed modestly but in the best clothes he had. Oscar hired him and introduced him to the other employees.

Jim proved to be an outstanding employee and with his hard work the grocery store grew into a supermarket and eventually into a chain of eight supermarkets.

As the years passed, Jim got married and with his wife Patricia, was blessed with two children.

Then came the day when Oscar was ready to retire. He called an employee and family meeting, held in a large auditorium and as he stood at the podium, Oscar said into the microphone, "Jim would you please come forward and bring Patricia and your children with you.

"Many years ago when Charlie, the original owner retired, he gave this market to me in reward for all of my devoted service. I now give this supermarket chain to you in reward for all of your devoted service.

"As I was like a son to Charlie, you are like a son to me. Who knew all those years ago when you and I first met under unusual circumstances that this could possibly happen. I'm proud of you."

Jim hugged Oscar as the tears ran down the cheeks of both men. When Jim could finally gather himself he said for all to hear, "Once I was a lost soul, but it was Oscar, this great man, who rescued me."

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