Listening, and learning intently, as an impressive young man in the HOPE Inner City Cyber Cafe at the HOPE (Banking) Center in DC-Anacostia last week following the afternoon tour of the HOPE Center with FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair.
What really got me here, is that I had pre-judged this young man when I first met him, as we all do from time to time with our youth, if we will admit it. What I mean is that I saw him sitting behind that computer, and just assumed he was there in the HOPE Inner City Cyber Cafe wasting time; surfing the Internet without a purpose. What I didn't know, and could not have guessed in a million years, is that this young man is a trained computer technician. His dress code, even he admitted to me, might not reflect best on him or about him, but that was not in any way the measure of this young man.
He had been trained at Operation HOPE, placed into a job internship opportunity through our HOPE Inner City Jobs Partnership. He was actually hired by the company, and then swiftly promoted -- because he knew what he was doing. But then, he was let go. Now, around this time, I managed to pre-judged him yet again. You see, I assumed he was going to "get an attitude" about being let go, and start "blaming" the loss of his job on this, and that and this. We all know the script. But that script he did not follow. He said, in the calmest, most even voice one could imagine, "I lost my job because the company hired someone who had a college degree and was more qualified (than me). I understand that." And that was it. Wow --- was my only response. He had no animus, he was at the HOPE Center trying to figure out how he could advance his skill set, so the next time, he was the one getting the job, not losing it. Deep.
The more I talked with this young man, the more impressed I became. Before we parted company, I had decided I was going to take his achieving his career ambitions on as a personal project; and I will. But the lessons learned, by me and at my own HOPE Center, were not over yet.
As I walked around the corner, asking one of my employees how her day was, she responded by telling me a bit more about the young man I had just met. She told me that earlier in the day her son had been at the HOPE Center and he thought he lost $10.00. She assumed it was gone forever. But then this same young man approached her, asking if someone had lost some money. You guessed it. Her son has his $10.00 back.
Lesson -- never judge a book by its cover, or a young man by the jeans, t-shirt and do-rag he is wearing. If we do, the real losers will be us.
John Hope Bryant