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The Boy At The Track

Frank Lamb

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Heino Molls

Many years ago I drove a taxi for extra money. I primarily worked the east end of Toronto. This was back in the days when the Greenwood Racetrack was in operation.

The track was a pretty lively place. Crowds of people were always streaming in and out. I did a lot of business down there dropping off fares and picking them up. When I think of those days, I remember one particular summer about 30 years ago.

Each time a taxi drove up to the front of the track, a group of local kids would run along the sidewalk angling for position by the passenger door. One lucky kid, or to be more accurate the most aggressive kid, would open the passenger door and say “Good luck at the track, Mister!”

The man getting out of the cab would invariably mumble thanks and flip the kid a quarter on his way from the taxi to the entrance of the track.

It was a routine that everybody knew. Sometimes the cops would chase these kids away but they always came back a couple of hours later or the next day.

Throughout the summer, one kid caught my eye. He was bigger than most of them but he was pushed away by even the smallest of all the other kids. He never pushed back. In fact he would even step aside when others pushed forward. He was actually courteous in the midst of all these aggressive kids.

Each time my cab or any other cab drove up it was another chance to be the one to open the door and say, “Good luck Mister!” and maybe get a quarter. This kid never stopped trying. He would watch the cab approach, figure out where it would stop along the sidewalk and then try his best to get to the door. He never made it. He always got pushed aside. But he never gave up.

Then one day his chance arrived.

As I was pulling up to the sidewalk all the kids were scrambling for a cab that had arrived just ahead of mine. They didn’t notice me pulling up.

The boy saw me and walked toward my taxi. As I pulled up I made sure to position the passenger door right beside him. He didn’t miss a beat. He opened the passenger door with a flourish and said to the man getting out, “Good luck at the track, Mister!”

But the man who got out of my cab did not say thanks. He did not flip him a quarter. He said, “Get out of my way kid!” and he pushed him aside so hard that the boy fell on the sidewalk and I knew it hurt him bad.

I was out of the cab in less than 10 seconds but I knew I would never find the man that pushed this boy down. He was gone in the crowd.

So I looked for the kid. I decided to give him $20 for the effort and gumption that I had watched him go through. By the time I spotted him he was far up ahead, walking away through the crowd, hands in his pockets and his head hanging down. I could not get to him. The other cabs behind mine were honking their horns and drivers were screaming obscenities at me, telling me to move the cab. The traffic cop was waving at me to get back in my taxi and get going.

The kid was walking the opposite way. By the time I got the cab turned around I lost sight of him. All I could do was pound my fist on the steering wheel.

I never saw him again.

Over time I have thought about that kid. I thought I would like to find him one day and tell him that if only he had stuck around a little longer I would have given him a whole $20 instead of the lousy quarter he was after, because I was so struck by his spirit.

After 30 years I realized that maybe I learned an important lesson from this kid. And maybe I am supposed to pass it along.

When things seem so hopeless that you are ready to give up, that is the time when things are most likely to turn around for you. One day we will all be recognized for how we tried. Not necessarily for what we did.

So don’t ever let up or walk away from integrity, because it will be the reason for your reward.

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