He looks over to see the same young man, surrounded by family and friends, chatting with a guest, and he looks back at the picture, just to make sure. A tip jar next to it is labeled for graduate school donations.
When he gets his change, he drops it in the container, looks at Nick Young and says, “Hey, man. I just contributed to your fund. It's not much, but …”
“Every little bit helps. Thanks, man,” Young stops talking to say, and the family around him harmonizes to thank the young man, who leaves the store with a smile on his face.
Twenty-two years later, people are still coming to Nick Young's rescue.
It was the story that spread across the country: a newborn baby, umbilical cord still attached, left to die in a Martin County orange grove, near an anthill.
But his story took an unexpected turn. Found covered in ant bites by a passerby, raised by a Riviera Beach foster family desperate to raise a child, Nick Young — named only Sam when he was rushed to Martin Memorial Medical Center — walked across the stage as a graduate of Florida A&M on Saturday.
No doubt, he bears the scars, particularly the ones on the inside, the ones that ask what police could never answer: Who was his mother? Who left him near that anthill? And why?
Those questions have not dampened the spirit of a man determined to embrace the life that was nearly taken from him at the start.
‘THAT IS MY BABY’
Dorothy Young was watching television that Wednesday afternoon in August when the news broke locally, then nationally. Her screen flashed pictures of Baby Sam and her heart broke.
She had given birth to a daughter, Tunesia, who was 12 at the time. But she had not been able to have any more children. Since then, she and her husband, Carl, had recently signed up to be foster parents through the One Church One Child program, which encouraged adoption, specifically of African-American children, who are the least often adopted.
When she saw the baby on the television, she ran out of the room, dragged in her husband and told him, “That is my baby,” she said.
Born at 6 pounds, 5 ounces, Baby Sam was six weeks old when he came to live with Carl and Dorothy Young. But by then, the Youngs had known him for weeks, sitting by his hospital crib, watching his eyes follow them around the room. The ant bites that had caused his face, eyes, nose and tongue to swell still covered him like an angry rash.
But Dorothy Young seemed not even to notice. Weeks later, she would call his social worker, Carolyn Lester, and tell her she had to come over and see how much the ant bite rash had cleared — although, to an outsider, Lester remembered, it clearly hadn't.
Dorothy Young looked at the baby with the eyes of a mother. When he was 2, the family adopted him.
“If we had a lot of families like them, we would not have any children in foster care,” Lester said.
When it was time to choose a name, the Youngs, practicing Christians, decided on a biblical name. They chose Nicholas Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”
“It had to be sacred because of how he came into the world,” Dorothy said.
For the Youngs, it was as if Nick had been born to them. He quickly became the spoiled little brother to the once-spoiled only child, Tunesia, who doted over the brother she had been asking her parents for years.
“There's my rock,” Nick says today, pointing at his mother. “And there's my second mom,” he adds, nodding to his sister.
He has often talked about taking on the long arduous task of finding his biological mother — visiting hospitals near the edge of Indiantown, where he was found, looking for the names of women who might have come in looking as if they had recently given birth.
He wants to know why he was left. He wants to know whether there are illnesses he should worry about in his family. He wants to know if he has siblings.
“I would want to know from her mouth,” Nick said. “I think I deserve an explanation. That's all. I hope I can meet her one day.”
It was his social worker, Lester, whom he thanks for “giving me a family” and his high school counselor for easing the rough spots in high school. They helped make him want to go to graduate school to study social work and school counseling.
“I came into the world without a family. The love of a family is God's greatest blessing,” he said.
A Palm Beach resident, Dede Merck, paid for two years at FAMU when she heard the family's story, and the Youngs hope someone else will sponsor Nick's grad school dreams. He certainly has made the most of his studies.
“We set the bar high,” Tunesia said, “and he reached significantly above it.”
Photo: Nick Young