Boy Steals Then Changes His Life Trajectory

So this old man caught a neighborhood boy stealing tennis balls from the community court. The boy would wait in the muddy ditch beside the court for players to hit their ball over the fence, he would then run away with the ball. Where he went, no one knew, but the old man had a hunch. For most people, the ditch was too steep and muddy to venture into anyways, but for the old man, something about the boy taking the tennis balls in plain sight didn’t sit quite right. So he came up with a plan.

“Tomorrow, I’ll hit a ball over the fence on purpose,” the man told his wife. “When I do, you’ll be parked on the street beside the court, then we’ll find out exactly where he’s been taking our tennis balls.”

Sure enough, the boy was waiting in the ditch the very next day, and the old man’s plan worked perfectly. As suspected, the boy had been bringing the tennis balls to a nearby second-hand sports shop. But instead of reporting the boy to the shop owner, the man did something peculiar. He muddied a tennis ball in the ditch, then brought it inside.

“Excuse me, sir,” the old man said, “how much would you offer for this tennis ball?”

“Well,” the shop owner said, “I’ll have to scrub it clean, and so I’d offer just one dollar.”

“Sold,” the old man said, but he wasn’t really there for the money.

Like clockwork, the boy was at the tennis court the very next day, only this time, the old man had a new plan.

“Excuse me,” he called to the boy.

The boy hesitated, readying his stance to run for the street.

“I’m feeling a bit off my game today, and I don’t think I’ll hit the ball very accurately,” the man continued, “but I’ll tell you what, if you retrieve all of the tennis balls I hit into the ditch today, I’ll pay you five dollars.”

The boy’s eyebrows raised.

“But what if you hit just one ball?”

“Five dollars,” the old man smiled.

“What about ten balls?” the boy asked.

“Also five dollars,” the man grinned.

The boy agreed, and after playing around with his wife, the old man called over to him.

“Okay,” he said, “I suppose we’re done for the day.”

With five tennis balls in his arms, the boy ran over to collect the payment from the old man, but the man handed ten dollars to the boy.

“But sir,” the boy said, “I thought you said only five dollars?”

“I did,” the old man said, “that’s your tip.”

Tears filled the young boy’s eyes.

“I don’t understand,” he said, “I’ve taken your tennis balls for weeks, why have you shown me such kindness?”

The old man smiled.

“Because sometimes, opportunities are closer than we think, and we just need someone to nudge us in the right direction. Just remember, there’s always another way, even when you find yourself down in a ditch.”