April 9, 2021

The legacy of Manny

Manny used to own the convenience store across the street from my high school. I’d go and visit him almost every single day.

We got to know Manny well, and he got to know us quite well too. He knew our tastes well enough to suggest new treats and snacks to us when they came in and he knew we’d like them. Once, when I wanted a particular kind of breath mint, he went out of his way to order them for me. When I was the campaign manager for a slew of my friends who were running for student council, Manny put up campaign signs in his store to support my friends and me in our endeavor. Sure, occasionally a student in the school might steal from Manny, but for the most part, he was beloved—especially among my social circle—and was more than just a store owner: he was part of the high school experience for so many of us that it almost felt like he was a teacher.

I visited Manny about six years ago, just before leaving Toronto and moving to London. It was the first time I had seen him since high school, and I was reminiscing about my younger years and thought I’d stop by the school and the store across the street. Manny not only recognized me and remembered my name, but remembered so many things about me, almost two decades later.

I wonder what the students now think of Manny; I wonder if he is a part of their high school experience like he was to me and my friends. I wonder whether he realizes that he touched the lives of so many young people over the years, and that he made teenage-hood so much better and enjoyable for so many of us.

When I saw Manny last, he had aged. His beard and his hair were grey, and while he looked similar to when we were in high school, he didn’t have the same frantic energy as he had back then. Being probably in his late fifties, this was no surprise.

When I look in the mirror now, I see the same grey beard and grey hair and wonder what my legacy will be when I am in my late fifties: how many lives will I have touched, how many people will remember me fondly? I think of Manny and how, in his small way, he made the world a better place for hundreds of teenagers who needed a short respite and refuge from the school day. I ask myself, every day, what I still need to do to have that kind of impact on the world—and quietly thank Manny for his inspiration.