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Gap Work

We have a customer at the shop named Speedy. Even if you don't get the opportunity to be formally introduced, you can glean his name from the "Speedy" tattooed above his lip. When asked why he has Speedy tattooed on his face, he always offers in his soft spoken, labored manner: "Because, I like, work really fast, man." And it's true. Speedy hustles like no one else, cruising to his job at the recycling yard at 6 am, working a 10-hour shift, fitting in an odd job before he heads to his night job at a local bar where he is a bouncer/dishwasher/jack of all trades, followed by a few hours of sleep. Press repeat. Day after day.

Speedy, who could be anywhere from age 25 - 45, works 7 days a week, so that maybe, one day, he can have an 8th day off. His soft brown eyes get dreamy when he talks about taking a vacation. We usually have this conversation when he's forking over money to have a bike fixed. I always feel guilty about getting in the way of his dreams as I roll out one of his bikes from the repair area. He has three--all beat up, all with a stuffed animal affixed to each set of handlebars. I once added a note to a tune up request: "Please install the new stuffed flamingo to the handlebars. Make it tight so it doesn't flap in the wind. Be sure to tell Speedy there's no charge for the animal installation." When he retrieves his bikes, he always checks that the shark or the flamingo is safely tied on and then declares that the bike is going to totally scream like a race car. With pride, he breaks out his wallet and hands over some cash conscientiously asking if it's the right amount. I count it aloud slowly so that he knows it's correct and to provide him with the routine of counting (#momming). Then off he goes, dark glasses, bandana around his heavily tattooed face and head, screaming like a race car.

Suffice to say, I love Speedy and will drop everything to help him when he comes in.

I was reminded of Speedy yesterday as Justin and I counted money together. Justin has been doing yard work for friends to help earn money for his "new to him" mountain bike. As he tried to determine how much more money he needed, I noticed that he moved the change from his savings envelope under a placemat and only focused on the dollars. Once he counted the dollars correctly, I asked him to check out the change as every penny represents his hard earned effort. His blue eyes grew wide and terrified. Patiently I smiled and swept the coins out from underneath the placemat. In a whisper, he said, "I don't know how to count them." To which I replied, "Cool, then this is an awesome day for a new challenge." Justin is crazy competitive, so challenge accepted. We talked about the value of each coin and then began to count. False starts followed by legit math. Finally we got them all and he proudly added $2.31 to his savings envelope.

This won't be the last time we count money together--for Justin or for Speedy. In both cases, the portion of their brains that allow for memory and decisioning haven't quite developed. Some days they are able to remember concepts clearly while other days, the details remain completely opaque and irretrievable. Frustrating to know something, for example the alphabet, on Monday only to find most of it missing on Tuesday. How embarrassing for other kids to find out that you are not like them even though you sit side by side in the same biology class. It's not easy to eat humble pie day after day, which is why I find myself so proud of Justin as he rises every morning at 6 am to make his lunch, feed his gecko, dress as dapper as he can, make his bed, eat his breakfast, comb his misbehaving hair completely excited for the day ahead of him. His resilience and commitment to this living thing are remarkable. Loads of rough days--don't get me wrong--but underlying it all is this firm need to make the most of this life rather than give up as so many of his peers have already done. After all, this is the kid who according to test results should not even be able to ride a bike.

Jump my love. Keep on jumping.

I'll be here when you land.

(Note: Video credit | Sarah Rice. Thank you, Sarah!)

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