The Best Investment I Ever Made

Reconnecting With The Past

Brad and YancyAbout 22 years ago, I was asked by a girl I liked if I would volunteer to tutor a child from the Cabrini Green area.  I said  “ok” and went to the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue in Chicago the next Wednesday night having no idea what to expect.  When I arrived there was a group of young boys and girls that showed up hoping to meet a nice adult to help them with their school work once a week.

I remember catching the eye of an eight year old black boy who had a fantastic smile and had a bundle of energy. We picked each other and started on our journey together. It started out by us seeing each other on Wednesday nights where we would go over his homework and I would help him with his reading, writing and math.

The boy’s name is Yancy Jones and he grew up with his sister and mother on Cleveland Street in a little apartment in the heart of Cabrini Green. After getting to know him at the church, I decided I wanted to spend more time with him. I was single and living in Chicago so it wasn’t hard to make that happen.  I took Yancy to Bull”s games, out to eat, to my parent’s house in Arlington Heights and out for ice cream.  It was also great to get to know his mother and sister and try to give him some of the things he wasn’t able to get on his own.  We were together for several years and both received a great benefit from having found each other.

Yancy got to meet my wife, Soni, and he seemed to be very perceptive as he would always ask; “Brad. when are you going to give her a big ole diamond ring”?  After Soni and I married and moved to Glen Ellyn (in 1996), we lost touch with Yancy.  Yancy met his father when he was thirteen, shortly after we moved to Glen Ellyn, and he moved in with him making it impossible to find or contact him.

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Fast forward to a few months ago when Yancy reached me through Facebook. He is now a thirty year old grown man with a son of his own, Yancy Jr.. Yancy towers over me and his little boy is as cute as he was.  Yancy has a fiancé and is an actor.  He has been in several movies and on the TV show Chicago Fire.

We have had a picture of the two of us prominently displayed in our home, but Yancy had not seen a picture of us of many years. After not seeing each other for seventeen years we decided to meet up a couple of weeks ago after I took my family to the Auto Show.  We had our reunion at Lou Malnati’s on State Street and had a great time catching up and meeting each others family’s.

Most interesting to me was his answer when I asked him what he remembered about our time together (he was 8-12 when we hung out).  He said, the Bulls games, going to the swimming pool by my mother’s house and Christmas Eve.  Every Christmas Eve, I played Santa and brought over a garbage bag full of clothes and toys for the family.  I got goose bumps and a little teary eyed when he was telling me.

To this day, I do not think I have ever done anything that has been as rewarding as spending time with that little boy, Yancy Jones, and I am so proud that he is now a good man and father.

There a plenty of opportunities to donate your time to help others, if you do it, I guarantee it will be a great investment for you.

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Yancy & Brad 20 years ago.

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