Today while I was at my regular lunch spot in a local restaurant a young kid walked up to me. He was about 20, maybe 21 years old. He was rather thin, beard and mustache much like my son, Andy.
"Hello," he said. "I hate to bother you, but I'm very hungry and haven't eaten anything for a while. Could you, maybe, buy me some food?"
I was stunned. Yeah, I've run into my fair share of panhandlers, but this guy looked like he meant it. As it happened, I was broke. I had absolutely no cash on me, and I told him so.
"Well, thanks anyway," he told me and tottered off. I saw him stop at a few other booths, and the folk in those shooed him away.
Goddamn it, I figured. "Hey, kid. I'll get you something to eat. Let's go order." We got in line. The place has two restaurants in it. The one in front where I generally eat serves pizzas, sandwiches, and salads. The one on the other end is a Bojangles and serves mainly fried chicken. He chose the Bojangles. When it got his turn I told him to order whatever he wanted. He went for the two-piece meal. It ran five bucks. "That's all you want?"
"Yes," he told me. "Thanks so much. I appreciate it." He looked like he was at the end of his rope. I don't think he was accustomed to begging for food. Maybe he was. I don't know. But I felt sorry for him. I paid with my check card and retreated.
For the rest of the day the image of the kid kept coming back to me. Of the other customers refusing his request for food. For food. I'd initially refused, too, so I'm not making any judgment calls. It's just that the thought of a young person walking around hungry in this country seems totally insane. He seemed like a nice kid and reminded me, as I said, of my son. I wonder if he has family. I didn't ask him.
I kept crying all day. Every time I'd stop and think about it, I'd start crying. I hope he has family. I hope he has folk who love him.
But I don't know.