Saturday, January 24, 2009

An Act of Kindness Never Goes Unpaid

The Curmudgeon at the Second Effort Blog has done it again. As he often does, he has evoked vivid memories of my youth. And as often is the case, my response to his Friday Blog would have been too long to post as a comment.

His story is very humorous, but at times it made me cry because it made me reminisce. It starts out with his working a cafeteria while in college. It ends with a moral that we should all pay heed to.

I have eaten in many different school cafeterias (the best food was at the Georgetown University teaching Hospital – no, I wasn’t a student), but I have never worked in one. Most of the food in school cafeterias is very nutritional but lacking in flavor.

The Curmudgeon
tells us of his serving food to the other students, some of whom he knew. And what a thankless job it was; nobody acknowledged that they knew him. Subsequent to that experience, he made it a point to make eye contact (with the servers who were serving him) and greet them.

I had learned this lesson many years before he did. I was in a school cafeteria line and trying to decide which entrée to select. I heard a sharp voice boom out at me, “Watcha you waitin’ fo, can’t you see there be a line of students behind you.” I looked up and saw a heavy set Black Women with fire in her eyes. I saw her name tag (initially thinking that I should report her) and I said “Dorothy, I just can’t decide what will upset my stomach the least.” She laughed.

Later I would always go through her line and greet her by name. We would always have a short conversation and she would advise me on what to select (I’m sure that she had tasted everything). Each year I would give Dorothy a Christmas card with five dollars (back then $5 was a lot of money – you could buy a full tank of gasoline and still have some money left over).

Later in his Blog, The Curmudgeon states that he “learned a valuable lesson.” He applies the learned lesson to the beggars, bums and homeless people working the downtown streets of Chicago.

My Dad taught me a valuable lesson about beggars, bums and homeless people when I was 11 or 12 years old.

As we did almost every Sunday, we would walk two blocks to the News Stand to get the Sunday Newspapers. One day, on the way there, a Bum (my Dad called them Panhandlers) approached my Dad and asked for money. My Dad dug into his pocket and gave him three quarters. I was a bit perturbed at this because my allowance was only $1 per week and I had to do a myriad of chores to get it.

Waking back home I asked him why he did it and said that he could have increased my allowance instead. He told me "He needs it more than you do.” He then said that “Jesus smiles down on those that perform acts of charity.” In his lifetime my Dad preformed many acts of charity, including acts of charity to me.

Eight years later I was interning (working for less pay – for doing the same job as my co-workers) at a downtown Chicago Bank. The Bank had a cafeteria but I would usually walk 3 blocks to a Coffee Shop in the building where my girlfriend worked, and we would have lunch together.

One day, a half block away from the Coffee Shop, I was approached by a Bum wearing a raggedy plaid long sleeve shirt (it was August), a Native American, who asked me for a quarter for a cup of coffee (back then you could get a cup of coffee for 15 cents). I told him to come with me and that I would buy him the coffee and a sandwich too. He reluctantly came with me; I’m not sure if it was because of the way that he was dressed or that he rather have had the quarter to buy some cheap wine.

When I walked into the Coffee Shop with him, my girlfriend was already there. Both she and the waitress gave me an icy stare.

After lunch, I walked him out and give him a five dollar bill and said “Now you can get your wine.” His eyes lit up like silver dollars and he thanked me profusely. In return I got a very warm feeling in my heart.

I'll never forget Dorothy or the Bum. Thanks Curmudgeon for rekindling these precious memories.

The Beach Bum

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6 Comments:

Blogger Steve Skinner said...

Sometimes the good we do actually does us some good too!

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