Every morning when Ethan wakes up, he brushes his teeth, washes his face, and puts on the clothes his mom laid out for him four hours earlier. Then he goes out to the kitchen, grabs whatever box of cereal is on the counter and pours it into a bowl with some milk, if there is any. Carefully closing and locking the door behind him with a key he keeps on a bright yellow lanyard in his backpack, he heads down four flights of stairs to the street below.
The cranky purr of MTA buses and honking horns greet him, clouds of exhaust hanging in the air. He greets it all back with a smile. Then he starts his seven block walk to school, giving a polite wave to the crossing guard who makes sure he gets across the intersection safely.
About halfway there, he says good morning to a man who has set up house with a handful of discarded cardboard boxes, hoping to brighten his day. His mom taught him that you never know what someone is going through, and sometimes you get to be the sunshine — like he is for her, she always says.