A smile can go a long way - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

A smile can go a long way

My life changed at this time last year – I got a job in Maryland and my wife and I downsized, selling our house in a small town in Pennsylvania and moving into an apartment complex in Germantown.

Gone is the yard and a few neighbors. Instead, we have three neighbors on our level, four more below and eight above us in a four-story complex.

I don’t know many of them, nor do I know their children. Still, we are neighbors.

As the news of the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida was breaking, I was out getting my mail as the school bus had dropped off the high school children who live near me. A quick turn as I closed the box and I was face to face with a teen who resembled the dead 17-year-old. My quick hi drew a smile and polite response.

Since we’re neighbors, I made eye contact with each as they walked past and offered a greeting. One boy – I’ve spent my life as a copy editor and know most of the AP Stylebook so I refer to males younger than 17 as boys and females younger than 17 as girls – was heading up the outside steps to his family’s apartment. I gave him a quick wave. He smiled and waved back.

I like my younger neighbors. Do I have any fear of them? No.

Do I have hope for them? Yes. I know they have dreams. While I don’t know what those dreams are, I hope they can reach them.

I had my own dreams when I was their age. I reached many of them. In the last year, I created some new dreams and hope to reach them in the coming weeks. As I age, I know how fragile dreams can be.

Do I have fear for them? Sadly, yes.

There are people who can destroy their dreams. I hope they never run into those people.

About the author

John Bechtel

John Bechtel spends his days editing. He and his wife are new to Maryland and look forward to exploring the state. Contact the author.

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