Food for the Hungry

Reflecting on Kindergarten and the many memories it entails, one specific story keeps coming to the forefront of my mind.  I think that this is my own memory, but maybe it’s just borrowed.  Perhaps it is simply one of the stories you have been told over and over and over again that you start to internalize it, and slowly start to mistake it for your own.

Dad always had a soft spot for people in his life; not just people so much as humanity.  There was a man we often saw around town. He had long, tangled hair and was clad in many tattered layers of heavily worn clothing.  He stood on the corner of state route 725 where cars exited interstate 675.

I remember the first time I saw him.  We were driving home from West Virginia, and there he was, standing there, cardboard sign in hand.  It read, “Will work for food.”  I was confused by this and did not understand.  Food came from your refrigerator and cabinets and pantry, and when you ran out you simply went down the road to the local grocery and picked up some more off the shelves of Cub Foods. Armed with this vast background knowledge I had acquired through my five years of life, this strange man holding this strange sign didn’t settle well into my brain.

But life continued as it always does and on occasion we would see him out, holding his weather-worn sign.  One day we saw him while I was out with my sister and dad.  I’m not sure what was so different about this specific day, but on our way to Burger King we once again passed this man.

When we arrived at the drive-thru, Dad ordered one meal more than what our family required.  This, he informed us, was for the hungry man who stood on the corner.  After getting our food we turned out onto the road and headed back in the direction from which we came.  I felt proud of my dad for such a kind deed, and even quickly forgave him when he reached for the wrong cup and took a sip out of the drink which belonged to the man we were doing this act of kindness for.

We pulled the truck to the side of the road and rolled down the window.  Dad handed him the meal.

“Hey partner,” Dad started.  Dad was always calling people ‘partner’, only it came out much more like, ‘pardner’.  I’m not sure why this was, but I always thought it a perfectly normal thing to say.

“Here you go,” he continued, handing him the bag, “Sorry, but I did accidentally take a sip out of your drink,” he explained as he handed over the cup.

I’m not even sure if this man spoke any words at all, but the next thing I recall he was throwing the cup of Coke back in Dad’s face.  The dark liquid flew through the air in the midst of the cubes of ice splattering down the side of the truck.

Everything beyond the moment is a bit fuzzy in my brain.  I imagine my father didn’t say a word, and somberly drove off, perhaps muttering to himself under his breath, or, perhaps not.

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