September 25, 2021
A store manager learns that a dirty little boy in worn-out clothes peeks into his store window every day so he decides to follow him so he can find out why.
Mark Nunez was in his office when the security guard came in. Immediately the store manager sensed trouble. "Jordan," he said, "Good morning, is everything OK?"
"Good morning Mr. Nunez," Jordan said. "There's no trouble, yet, but I have a feeling there might be. There's this kid I think might be planning something..."
"Planning something?" Mr. Nunez frowned. "A shoplifter?"
"I don't know sir," said Jordan uncomfortably. "I thought he might be the lookout for a stickup. He's here every day, at around this time."
"Well," said Mr. Nunez, getting up, "let's go take a look!"
Mr. Nunez followed Jordan to the front of the store and stood behind some tall shelves. Sure enough, there was a small boy standing in front of the store's window, cupping his hands around his face so he could see inside.
Mr. Nunez was surprised to see that the child was around nine or ten, not the husky teenager he had been imagining might be casing the store as part of a criminal gang.
"That's just a child, Jordan," said Mr. Nunez. "I don't think he's a master criminal!"
"Then why is he spying on us every day?" asked Jordan. "There's something going on..."
"Yes there is," said Mr. Nunez, "and I'm going to find out what."
The next day, at the same time, Mr. Nunez was the one doing the watching. He saw the boy arrive, stand by the window staring into the store, then turn and walk away. Mr. Nunez followed the boy.
Closer he could see that the little boy was dirty, that his clothes were worn out, and that his shoes were falling apart. No wonder Jordan had been suspicious! The kid was thin too, but he walked fast.
Mr. Nunez found himself working up a sweat just to keep up. They were walking along the side of an abandoned construction site that had been walled off with sheets of metal when the boy suddenly vanished.
Mr. Nunez walked up to the spot where the boy had been and looked around. Then he heard the voices. He noticed that one of the sheets had been rigged to work as a door.
He pushed it aside and stepped in. What he saw beyond shocked him. People had taken over the abandoned site, putting up lean-tos from scavenged materials. There were families living there.
Mr. Nunez saw the boy run to a tent rigged from tattered canvas and to a woman sitting in an old chair with two children gathered around her. "Pete!" she cried. "Where have you been?"
"Hey mom," said the kid grinning. "I was window shopping!"
No matter how bad things get, never stop dreaming and believing.
"Window shopping!" cried the mother. "Goodness, and what did you buy today?"
Pete grinned. "I got some new shoes for me and Tony and Harold, and a pretty dress for you, then I went to the grocery store and got us some REAL food and fruit and vegetables and a cake for your birthday!"
Mr. Nunez felt a giant hand constrict his chest. So that was what the little boy was doing. Not 'casing the place' as Jordan had believed, but fantasizing about getting fresh food and basic necessities for his suffering family.
Mr. Nunez remembered some of the lamentable scenes he'd witnessed in the store, with children screaming and throwing tantrums over candy and treats. All this boy wanted was 'real' food...
He walked back to the store thoughtfully. Just before the store closed that evening he took a shopping cart and went on a little expedition all on his own.
He wheeled the overloaded cart to the checkout and paid for his purchases. The teller was astonished. "I thought Mrs. Nunez always did the shopping," she exclaimed.
"She does, Janice," said Mr. Nunez, and he proceeded to tell Janice the whole story. When he finished, Janice had tears in her eyes.
"Mr. Nunez, my kids keep outgrowing their sneakers and their clothes before they wear out -- they're practically new, and I have a closetful of dresses that no longer fit me. Could I bring you some stuff for the family tomorrow?" Mr. Nunez agreed.
The next day, Janice came in with bags of nearly new shoes, and boys' clothes in several sizes, and even some pretty dresses that would fit Pete's thin mother.
Mr. Nunez put all the shopping bags into his car and drove to the construction site. He parked, took out as many shopping bags as he could carry, and walked into the camp.
He walked up to the ragged tent Pete and his family lived in. "Excuse me," he said to Pete's mother. "I have a special delivery for Pete."
The woman stared at Mr. Nunez in astonishment. "Pete," she called, "there's someone here for you!"
Pete came out followed by two smaller boys. He stared at Mr. Nunez and at the grocery bags in his arms. "The rest of your order is in the car," Mr. Nunez said. "Maybe you could help me?"
Pete followed Mr. Nunez to the car and gasped at the sight of all the food, the shoes, and the bags of pretty dresses Janice had sent for his mother. "Is this a dream?" he asked suspiciously. "A trick?"
Mr. Nunez shook his head. "No, Pete, this is real, so let's go fix some breakfast for your family."
Mr. Nunez learned the family's story. Pete's mother, Rita, was forced to sell their house when her husband fell ill with cancer. He passed away, and the family was destitute.
Rita had once been an accounting clerk and tried to find work. "Look at me," said Rita gesturing at her ragged clothing, "No one will even interview me!"
"I will," said Mr. Nunez. "So tomorrow why don't you put on one of these pretty dresses and be at my office at 9:00 sharp? I'm looking for an assistant and I think you might just be the right person."
Rita got the job, and soon, with Mr. Nunez and Janice's help, the family moved into a little apartment, and Pete and his brothers started school. Pete had gone window shopping for a better life, and it found him.
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