In Love With My Boss

By: Audrey Tolhouse

Silence began to drop at the audience hung on Jennifer’s words. The white screen had finished lowering over a minute ago. At the podium was the remote. She went towards the control and lifted it into her hands. Within seconds, a large picture of a young black child with round cheeks was displayed. The audience seemed to gasp as they saw that Melone’s rough face and thick body cradled the child in his arms.

Jennifer let the image sink in. It was a little girl, and she was bleeding from the right side of her stomach. “How many of you remember the tragic events of May 14th, 2009?” There was silence. Jennifer nodded and pressed the remote, the image changed to rubble, smoke, EMTs and police officers sifting through debris.

“That’s because it was mentioned once in the news, and then glossed over to talk more about job loss, the falling rates that didn’t seem to be slowing down,” she motioned with her hands, “and the terrible status of the economy.” Jennifer straightened her back and took a deep breath. “No one seemed to care about the tragedy that happened in the outlying poorer sections of Chicago that day.”

“On this particular day, however,” Jennifer switched to another picture, “Melone was a just outside of downtown.” She paused and smirked, “He was doing some scouting for property on his own and got lost.” She heard a few suppressed chuckles from the ground. “He pulled over to check his GPS for and heard some shouting. Screaming,” she switched to another picture of the scene.

“A medium-sized company had just announced days before that it was closing five of its most essential stores in the inner city Chicago area. Thousands of the working poor were going to lose their jobs.” Jennifer faced the audience again, stopping the streaming images on a picture of Melone speaking with an officer. He was in jeans and a collared shirt but wore the look of a weathered new age hero.

“A peaceful protest outside these stores turned violent after a couple of days of getting nowhere. People became hostile. Crowds began to run,” Jennifer approached the podium again. “People, older women, men, children, mothers, and fathers were trampled.” She could tell she had their full attention. “Fires were started and fire hydrants released. Emergency services took more than thirty minutes to arrive and Melone, just blocks from one store, was able to help kids get to safety.”

Jennifer half turned towards the image still on display. Melone’s face was partially covered, but she could still envision his soft, baby blue eyes full of compassion and determination. “The media painted these people as animals, trampling their young,” she mocked, “but Melone was there. He saw the desperation. He saw their need.” She paused for effect.

“If he could have given a billion dollars to the blocks with the most damage that day, he would have done it in an instant and not batted an eye. But he wanted to do more than help repair and rebuild,” she nodded at the strength behind her words. “He wanted to help instill hope and peace to these hurting, forgotten families of our beloved Chicago.”

The audience began to clap. She saw some wiping their faces. “You see, these people don’t have hard skills to get better jobs. They rely on minimum wages to feed families of five or more.” Jennifer ran a hand through her hair, pushing it off her shoulders. “Melone saw they needed direction to be better, and so Hope’s Foundation was born.” She clicked to the next image, a photo of the grand opening of a physical location of Hope’s Foundation. Melone stood with a crowd of supporters, commissioners, and the Mayor’s office with a pair of large scissors and huge red ribbon.

“Over the past two years since the creation of Hope’s Foundation, five different programs have been created and formed to help late adult education and skill specific training. We’ve given over a million back into the community that has increased the city’s low-wage earners’ potential to earn better jobs—and many have.” Jennifer pressed the remote.

“Here’s Jerome. He had a fifth-grade reading level and lacked serious stability for years. With the funded programs started by Hope’s Foundation, we have seen this man get his GED in less than a year with extensive tutoring. He got his first steady job as a dispatcher within a local moving company, and,” Jennifer faced the crowd directly, “he has begun the first college level classes as a first generation college student from his family and was just awarded an intern position with another private company that will mark his first salary position at $25 thousand a year.”

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