A few months back I noticed this young cigarette peddler in this little city park near the ECC campus in downtown Buffalo. Normally, I would see older dudes between the ages of 22 and 55 ‘flipping’ these generic cigarettes downtown, but this guy stood out because of how young he looked. These cigarette peddlers would get them ‘on the cheap’ at the local reservation then try to resell them for a small profit on the street. This particular peddler seemed no more than about 16 or 17 years old to me, and watching him conduct his business bothered me. In between my classes sometimes I would chat with this young man and I would let him know that it seriously hurts me to see a young person not using their talents and what God has given them. At first, this young man wasn’t very talkative (but he was respectful to me — he called me ‘Old G’ and sometimes ‘Pop’ — and over time, he began to open up little by little.) One day, he tried to tell me that he wasn’t “officially” in a gang but certain gang “associates” would send him on these missions to hustle their generic cigarettes. He also had informed me earlier that he had dropped out of school due to lack of interest. After learning these things, I would always try to have a quick chat with this young man to motivate him to change his life around without sounding too preachy. I would tell him to stay away from gangs because they tend to imprison themselves by limiting their lives to just one particular street or just one particular city block. ‘Why limit and confine yourself to a simple city street when you could have the whole world?’, I’d often tell him. Yesterday, as I was leaving the campus, I heard someone excitedly yelling and calling “Old G! Hey Pop!” from a distance. I’d been off-campus for a short while, and after not seeing this young man for a couple weeks or so, I was truly surprised to see him dressed differently with a certain confidence on his face as he excitedly unfolded a sheet of paper from his pants pocket and kept saying, “Look Old G, I did it! Look Old G, I did it!” The piece of paper he was flashing in front of me was his GED certificate letter! And it was like seeing a totally different person in front of me when his face lit up telling me that he no longer hustles the cigarettes and had submitted four online job applications and was seriously considering taking maybe a couple college-entrance classes this coming spring. That happened yesterday, November 19, 2013. I wonder who I’ll meet today, hm…one person at a time.