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The Contested Chicken Dinner

October 2, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Inspiration

It was one of those bitter Ontario winter days. A short but welcome lull between January snow storms. The inclement weather during the past week had bared our cupboards and it was the logical break we needed to get to the grocery store.

Jenn and I pulled into the crowded, icy parking lot putting us quite far from the entrance. Everyone else seemed to be taking advantage of the first snowless afternoon in awhile to replenish as well.

It was cold and blustery though as we half-trotted towards the doors eager to get away from the wind. Just as we were about to find shelter I noticed a man, about 40 years old, in a grungy military coat, his bare hands clutching a tattered cardboard sign that begged, “I am homeless. Pls buy me a meel.”

The deluge of shoppers, much in a rush like we were, was ignoring the man as they made their way into the warmth of the store. I could only think he was perceived as some kind of blemish on society.

I wanted to say hello and acknowledge him but just as we got to within greeting distance he turned his unshaven face away, I guess to shelter himself from the elements. We too then walked past him.

We grabbed one of the last remaining shopping carts and passed the home-cooked meal section en route to the fruit and vegetable bunkers.

Somehow, I couldn’t shake the mental image of a needed “meel” on that sign and I suggested to Jenn that she start picking out the produce and I would catch up with her in a few minutes.

I turned back to the home-cooked meal section and wondered what kind of food would be his favorite.

Perusing the showcase of ribs and veal and chicken and lasagna and potatoes and veggies and salads, a younger man, dressed in a clean white chef’s getup, came to assist. He looked like he was really into his job. What follows is the conversation we had as best I recall.

“Hi. Can I help you?”

“Hello. Say, what’s your favorite meal here?”

“Chicken, for sure.”

“Great, what kind of sides would you suggest to go with the chicken?”

“Well, what do you like, fries, salads?”

“Hmmmm, it’s not for me.”

“Well, what do they like?”

“I don’t really know. Do you know the man outside with the sign?”

His expression turned from one of service to one of seeming concern.

“Yeah, he bothers our customers all the time. We call the police and they never do anything about him.”

“Do anything about what?”

“He stands out there all day begging for food and we’re losing business.”

“Seems to me I didn’t see anyone walking away from your store today. Does anyone ever buy him a meal?”

“Not from me they don’t.”

“Why, because you wouldn’t sell them a meal for him?”

“Damn straight if I knew that’s who they were buying it for.”

“OK then, I want to order a quarter chicken-dinner with Greek salad and home-style potatoes.”

His tone got a little snarly as he tried to lose the sale.

“Do you know he drives away from here every day in a car.”

“Really, he actually drives away? Wow. What kind of car?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, is it a brand new car or an old car?”

“I guess it’s pretty old.”

“Ah, I see. Then that would probably be his home, right?”

No answer, just an expression that might have bordered on embarrassment.

“Can you please now get me a quarter chicken-dinner with Greek salad and home-style potatoes?”

Knowing he was not in a position to refuse me he started to put the plate together… disgusted.  At the same time I was trying my best to hide my own disgust at not only the sheer ignorance of this employee but also at the fact that no one, at least according to this guy, had even thought to buy this hungry man some food!

Once he had completed the plate I did my best Dennis-the-Menace imitation to get the sweetest revenge to the utmost benefit of my unmet friend outside.  I then asked him…

“Would you please upsize that to a half-chicken and add a side of ribs?”

The look I got in return could have melted all the ice on the parking lot!

Outside, I shook hands with Charles as I handed him what was probably his first meal of the day.  His eyes lit up like the Christmas tree I’m sure he missed last month. He bowed his head and peeled back the lid inhaling the aromatic steam and there was a calm sense of genuine joy in that moment. He said a soft thank you and politely excused himself hurrying off to partake of his “meel”.

When I caught up with Jenn she was in the dairy section finishing up the groceries. She asked where I’d been to and why I had this little smirk on my face. I told her what had happened and she held on to my arm tightly up until we got to the checkout.

The walk back to the car somehow seemed a little warmer. There was plenty that could have been said about intolerance and indifference but I couldn’t get a recurring thought out of my mind. It was Mother Teresa, I think, who said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
©Rick Beneteau


Rick Beneteau is co-founder of The Movement of Change.

Julian Kalmar and Rick Beneteau want to know if you've got what it takes to step up and be a leader in the new world transformation. CLICK HERE to find out.

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