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.