It didn’t take Simon and Devin very long, living in the underpass with Leo, to realize that they had many unanswered questions about life. Leo was a breath of fresh air to the boys, as he cared for them and made sure they had something to eat. He even managed to squander some blankets and pillows so that the boys were kept relatively comfortable. However, he could not provide many of the other necessities of life and they felt increasingly more self aware when they bunked down in the salvation army shelter on particularly cold nights. They had no idea there were so many homeless people in the city ~ mostly men and lost souls ~ not unlike how they had felt when they’d made their decision to bolt.
Leo was a kind and generous man and it wasn’t long before the boys were sitting around the fire listening to Leo’s stories and listening to him read. He picked up several of Jason Reynolds books to share with the boys and they were amazed that this young man had also struggled with reading in school. Jason didn’t read until he was 17 and yet he managed to pick himself up, teach himself and was soon writing nine novels. They were amazed.
Leo never dictated about life, like so many other adults in their young lives ~ instead, he sympathized with their confusion and angst. He was a compelling story teller but also a great listener. He agreed with the boys that teenage years are very difficult and he sympathized with their inability to perform in school ~ and he read out loud. He read everything he could get his hands on and then they would discuss the perils of navigating an illiterate world.
Spring came and the delight of fair weather and sunshine provided all three with a sense of joy. They walked along the boardwalk, skipped stones and talked. They talked a lot ~~ and Leo listened. Leo understood them and he was gentle in his approach. Neither boy had ever had an adult pay so much attention.
One particularly fair day Leo picked up three copies of “The Stars Beneath Our Feet” by David Barclay Moore. He also picked up old lego kits from second hand shops and the boys began to build. Leo took them to see artists studios in the Arts District, and he took them to the ROM. He had friends who played music in a small bar on Jarvis and he made sure Devin and Simon were included. It wasn’t long before they were very interested in the music being played by buskers as spring turned into summer and the streets were filled with musicians for special events. This was a new world for them.
As summer was drawing to a close, both boys were becoming increasingly aware of a big change in themselves. They felt they had seen the world through new eyes. And they knew how it felt to be recognized and listened to. When they picked up their backpacks for the last time they knew they were on a journey of learning. They also knew that Leo had been a huge positive influence and they would never forget him.