He is severely disabled.
It’s obvious just from watching him for a few minutes.
His walk looks painful. He knees come together in an angle that is not in the least bit natural. He stops, and then one of his knees moves out in the opposite direction, poking sideways through his filthy trousers.
He’s picking up something in the parking lot. A stray coin, maybe? A valuable scrap of something. He moves on, slowly. Near a light pole, he stops and puts his collection on top of the concrete base of the light pole. Some he tosses back onto the parking lot.
I’ve seen him around town before. One Sunday he just walked out in the middle of traffic to cross the street. His disability is not only physical, it’s mental.
We’re in line at KFC. Yes, we eat there a lot. Good chicken.
This particular KFC is not in the affluent part of town. Not that there is an affluent part of my town. But it’s near the homeless shelter. Near St. Mark’s where lunches are provided to those in need. Near the bridges, where some choose to make their homes.
Should we buy him something to eat? my wife asks.
I don’t know.
I didn’t know if he would take it. Didn’t know if he would just cuss us. Didn’t even know if he really needed it.
We place our order. Just for us.
At the window, we ask if they know anything about the guy wandering the parking lot.
That’s John, she says. We give him something to eat every day.
She asks us to pull up while our order is prepared.
John’s off to the side of us now, emptying his pockets on the sidewalk. Just stuff. Rocks. Dirt. Who knows what.
She brings our food.
John, are you ready to eat?
He nods. He mills around a bit before they go inside.
One other time I was inside at this store and there was an older gentleman with a cane. He was not as bad off as John. Seemed like he had all his faculties, as they say, but life had not been generous to him. The manager asked what he wanted. A cola, he answered. He reached in his pocket for some change. The manager waved him off.
Don’t worry about it.
The folks working at this KFC are probably making minimum wage, maybe a little more. They don’t have a lot of money to spare. And the store itself is probably working on razor-thin margins. Giving away food is not in their best interests.
And yet they do.
Let others fight about borders and immigration and gun control and geopolitics.
Our neighbor is in need.
Our neighbor needs something to eat.