“In my country, we couldn’t afford to go to school,” he would tell us. “I lived with poor people. We had all we could do to survive the war and help support our families. America was good to me — good to a lot of other people, too. So be good to America.”
Life couldn’t have been better for Pop until one day when some hoods entered his store right before closing. They wanted his cash register emptied. The weasels threatened him with a gun and, when he resisted, they pistol-whipped him.
They ransacked his store and caused bodily harm. Thieves in the night had raised havoc in our peaceful neighborhood and bullied a friend to all.
Word got out the next day that the variety store had been violated and its affable owner hurt callously. Police were called. The neighborhood had been put on alert.
Who would do such a thing to Pop? It was enough to cause you to lose your faith in humanity. America — the land of opportunity — had suddenly turned into a quagmire of hostility.
Days passed and Pop had not returned to the shop that was once his haven. A sign was placed in the window. “Closed until further notice.”
The crowd hung out at an empty store. We put our heads together and decided to cheer up our hero who stood up to those renegades. We would organize a neighborhood basketball game for Pop and have him seated on our bench.
He lived in a modest apartment above the store and answered the door, his head bearing a tourniquet dressing his wound. There was no refusing “his boys.”
On the day of the big game, everyone showed up and cheered for Pop. He took his special place rather reluctantly, but was proud to be back with the gang.