Awkward acts of kindness

Kyle decided to stick around for his baby.

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Kyle and I met in a mentoring program. He was a little punk picking fights at his high school, getting into arguments with his mom and sis, and letting his “dog eat his homework.” I don’t remember if these were the exact things but he wasn’t on the fast track to success.

I hung out with him each week, but I was just so awkward. Like, I wanted to help, and Kyle appreciated time we spent together, but it was always like a first date. Like, what do I say? How do I help. How do I look cool enough for him to listen to me.

But we made it work. We’d get McDonalds or go throw a ball and just hang. Chat a little. And just hang.
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Well, one day he told me about how angry he was at his dad for deserting them when he was young. The anger reached into a lot of areas of his life and effected a lot of things. A lot of the ways he looked at life. I think I pulled out a piece of paper and my nerdy multi-colored blue pen and said, tell me what ways you don’t want to be like your dad. And then what are your goals for what you do want to be in life. We made a list together.

Kyle’s all grown up now and he called me the other day. And in our phone conversation he reminded me that I had printed that list on a little card and gave it to him to put in his wallet. I had totally forgotten about that.

But he hadn’t.

And now let me tell you about present day Kyle.

I am so proud of him.

He is a rising chef at a top restaurant in Tucson, AZ. He has a beautiful wife named Ashley and a little girl who he brags is as sharp as a whip, and wants to be a chef like her daddy some day too.

About a year ago he even got hit by a car on his bike and it messed up his back so he couldn’t work. And things got real hard. He and his wife hit rock bottom. But they realized they had to support each other or they were going to fail. So they did the hard things to love each other and work hard. He did the hard work of healing his body and his family. And now he says they are stronger than ever. He talks about how he wants to give back to the world and how every day he wakes up and asks himself, “Am I living in a way that makes my daughter proud of me?” And that is what keeps him going. That is what keeps him loving his family, working hard, and doing responsible things like calling his old awkward mentor.

This was a changed Kyle from the one I knew years ago.

bird-9But let me tell you one more thing. He and his wife got pregnant when they were really young, and unmarried. Kyle knew they weren’t ready for it and knew how hard things would be so he suggested adoption or even. . . potentially abortion. But she responded, “You can leave us if you need to, no hard feelings, but I’m raising this baby.”

Kyle went home that night and thought long and hard about it. Could he choose to take on this responsibility that he would have to carry for the rest of his life?

Well, he happened to look up at his shelf and saw something there. That is where he had put that card I had made for him years ago. He picked it up and read it. At the top of the list that was labeled, “Ways I don’t want to be like my dad” was the first item: “I won’t desert my child.”

And he went back to Ashley and they raised Mya.

And today she is an adorable, clever girl who pulls together the family that gives meaning to his life and motivates him to make world-class food that feeds the world.

I just want to say, my friends, that even little acts of awkward kindness have potential to change the world.

Thanks for giving me something to be so proud of, Kyle, despite my awkwardness. I’m so proud of you. I love you, little brother.

Raw Spoon, 6-29-15