Jared died this week. He was buried by the County because he died destitute. He was 52 years old and he died from complications of Adult Onset Diabetes. When Jared was a kid he was the class clown. The closest Jared came to his school books was when he balanced them on his head and strutted down the center row in class and eliciting a few childish laughs when they came cascading off of his head. When the teacher was talking Jared would smirk and think how dumb this all was...he occupied his class time drawing cartoons on his pee chee folders. Jared couldn't wait for lunch period so that he could march into the cafeteria, grab his free lunch and start food fights.
Each of Jared's succeeding teachers would pass Jared on to the next grade, unmindful that Jared hadn't learned anything; they were just glad to pass him on to the next teacher.
When Jared was ten he discovered the wonders of sniffing airplane glue...then he could really be funny...he was hilarious. Eventually funny Jared was graduated from high school. Since he couldn't read beyond the 5th grade level, and had no marketable skills, Jared wandered from one fast food outlet to another, bundling french fries and assembling hamburgers for the masses.
Sadly, Jared discovered the miracle of Oxycontin and Bath Salts and Crystal Meth...then he was really funny at work...when he was able to stir himself and actually get to work. Eventually, Jared was fired by Ronald McDonald and ended up in a homeless shelter. But Jared was one of those "prime" candidates for liberal reformers. A retired ACLU lawyer, now doing volunteer work, got Jared signed up for food stamps and fought his case with the Social Security Administration and won Jared a disability check for disabilities still unknown.
So Jared parked himself on a couch in his Section 8 funded apartment and spent his days and nights smoking pot and watching Fast and Furious movies and re-runs of The Simpsons. Eventually, Jared gained a hundred pounds and developed Adult Onset Diabetes and Medicaid paid for his treatments.
So last week the class clown died. He was no longer a funny figure, and his life had not been funny, and his death would have been tragic had his life had any measure of worth at all.
In the same week Jared died, Julio was given the keys to his own home. Julio is a Mexican-American who migrated to America, was given a green card, learned English and was awarded his citizenship five years later. Julio had only a 5th grade education down in Mexico so when he came to America he worked in the fields and performed day labor on the weekends. Julio eventually saved enough from his meager paychecks to buy a sno-cone cart, powered by a bicycle. He mounted a little bell on the handle bars and pealed his way through Hispanic neighborhoods, pedaling sno-cones to all the children.
Julio made enough from his little business and, convinced he could support a family, he married lovely Maria who worked in a Mexican restaurant he sometimes frequented. Maria was reluctant to take a sno-cone peddler seriously as a spouse but Julio's charm soon won her over. Within a year of their marriage Julio and Maria had a little boy who they named Jesus.
After many years of saving from their work, Julio and Maria moved to a nicer part of town and Maria became a stay at home mom and wife until Jesus was ready for school. But Julio headed out each morning at nine o'clock and pedaled his sno-cones and home-made tamales cooked by Maria the night before. Soon their little business on wheels was thriving, driven by the increasing sales of Maria's home-made tamales. They were even able to put away a nice little nest-egg as they lived simply and frugally.
So when Jesus was ready for first grade Maria accompanied him to school and drove down to her old restaurant seeking to regain her old waitress job. And by the time Jesus was in third grade, the owner of the little Mexican restaurant wanted to sell out and retire.
After talking it up together, Julio and Maria offered to buy the restaurant...and their years of savings allowed them to pay cash and incur no debt. Soon the restaurant was thriving under Maria's fine hand in the kitchen and Julio's charming way with their customers.
Julio and Maria were happy with their new found prosperity and with the fullness of their lives. Things could not have been better. Until Julio got a call from the teacher, who asked for him to come in for a talk.
It seems Jesus, who was now in 6th grade, had become quite the class clown; so much so that he was disrupting the class. So Julio, saddened and shamed, took Jesus home before returning to the restaurant. Maria, seeing Julio's long face, beckoned him back to the kitchen where they huddled and talked about their class clown, Jesus. As Julio embraced the crying Maria, a solution came to mind, and he left the restaurant for home.
When Julio arrived home he grabbed the collar of his rebellious son and pulled him out to the garage. Julio rolled up the garage door and wheeled out his now ancient sno-cone bike. He then grabbed Jesus by the collar and the seat of his pants and swung him onto the bike seat and proclaimed Jesus a "sno-cone peddler".
For the next few weeks, as soon as school was out, Jesus pedaled through the neighborhood vending sno-cones in the neighborhood. And all day on Saturdays. Soon Jesus was too tired to play the class clown in school. And soon Jesus realized that this wasn't what he wanted to do with his life. In the next school semester Jesus returned home with straight A's on his report card...and Julio and Maria were pleased.
Jesus is scheduled to graduate this June. He's already been accepted at Arizona State University and plans to major in business and marketing. He and his school counsellor have already got him set up with an internship during the summer with a Fortune 500 company here in Phoenix.
So last week Julio and Maria took a week off from the restaurant...they're busy moving into their new home. They are extremely proud and extremely happy...and so is Jesus...he learned the hard way that being the class clown is not such a great thing to be.
Sadly, and happily, both of these stories are true....