My first real job after getting out of high school was working with a group that worked with kids after school and during the summers. I went through much of my formative years with them and felt like I really wanted to give back, so when a job opening became available; I jumped at it.
Working with the kids there was a wonderful experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. I made a very positive difference in the lives of many children and learned some very important lessons.
One of which being that people tend to look down on fraud involving children.
Let me explain.
The last year I was employed with the company we had a summer field trip to Animal Kingdom in Disney world. By this point, due to my attitude and willingness to actually talk to the kids on their level many of them wanted to have me as their staff leader. So I ended up going into a very large theme park with about…25 or so kids in my care. I was game for it and planned ahead. When we arrived, I asked each of the kids what rides or attractions they wanted to see because for many of them; this was the first and only time they would ever be able to come to a place like this. After all the kids had their say, I pulled out a map of the park and marked each location where the children said they wanted to go.
I was lucky enough that I had three of the more responsible teens with us and asked them to take the one or two outliers (kids that were the only ones interested in a certain ride) with them and then told them exactly where to meet up, in addition to giving them the cell phone number of another staff in case they needed to get ahold of someone.
And so, off we went. The park was great, the kids all enjoyed themselves and everyone got to see everything they wanted to. Except for one person. I had budgeted our time perfectly, but the weather decided it wanted to be Florida so I got a notice that we needed to start getting ready to leave. The raindrops mixed perfectly with the little boys tears and my heart-strings tugged. There was no way we were going to head back to that bus without everyone enjoying themselves.
I looked at the kids in my group and tried to think what I could do to circumvent the 30 minute line that loomed before us. I pointed at one of the smaller boys and told him to come with me.
I buttoned up my shirt to cover up the logo for the organization I worked for and instructed him to do the same while at the same time, passing him my hat and instructing him to put it on as we walked up to the line attendant.
“Hi my name is Gerrimy and this is (name withheld), I’m with the (NAME WITHHELD) and my group here all really wanted to get on this ride today, but we’re about to leave. Is there anyway you can help?”
The woman at first looked skeptical until she looked at my friend, who to his credit totally hammed it up as soon as he realized what I was doing. He looked up at her with soulful, sad eyes with just the hint of a tear, brought his hand gingerly to his mouth and while never breaking eye contact; coughed lightly into his hand.
This lady never stood a chance. “Let me see what I can do.” she said through choking sobs as she scurried off. The supervisor apologized profusely, repeatedly telling us if he knew we were coming they would have been able to do more and how odd it was that the Foundation didn’t notify them. I reassured him, telling him it was probably just a mix up in paperwork, not to worry about it, no need to involve anyone else.
The kids loved it. They got to ride the deluxe safari edition which is usually reserved for those with ample money. They got to touch a rhino, pet a giraffe and everything! It was amazing and by the time we got back on the bus, we were right on time and overloaded with freebies that the supervisor and line attendant insisted we take. The other staff and kids eyed me suspiciously. Thie children out of jealousy, the staff because they know how much I was willing to do to make sure my kids enjoyed themselves.
About two days later I was (as expected) called into my boss’ office and the following conversation took place, which I am positive she never thought for many reasons, she would ever have to be involved in:
“Gerrimy, I have been hearing a very upsetting rumor about you. Did you actually convince an entire park that you were with the (NAME WITHHELD) just to make sure your kids all got to ride everything they wanted?”
“That is without a doubt, the nicest thing I’ve ever heard someone do. It goes without saying you’re fired though.”
“Yeah. But it was totally worth it.”