Unemployment and Hunger and Root Beer Floats and Strangers and Friends

“Excuse me, ladies, but would you mind buying me some small fries or something? I just need to get my body feelin right and things have been real rough lately.”

I had met a friend at a burger and ice cream joint after work, and noticed the middle aged man had been sitting at that corner table just as long as my friend and I had been gabbing over empty root beer float glasses. Over an hour.

He sat alone, had no burger or ice cream on his table, but did have a backpack and a cell phone plugged into an outlet.

My suburban upbringing kicked in, telling me it was bad if I was approached and asked for something by a stranger, that it could get me mugged. But the man’s words were simple and sincere. When he said, ‘Things have been real rough lately,” I could relate. Rich has been looking for steady work for 4 years now. And if we didn’t have the support system we do, I could just as easily be sitting in a burger joint asking a stranger for the same thing.

“Sure,” I answered. “A small fry?”

“A small fry, or a small hamburger, something like that,” he replied.

My friend already had her wallet out and handed me some money. I walked to the cashier, ordered a burger, and the man was grateful.

He didn’t ask for a ride somewhere or for cash, just for a few bites to eat.

“It must be really hard to get up the courage to ask for something like that,” my friend said. And I felt a little bad that my initial reaction was to flee the scene.

As my friend and I left,  the man thanked us as we walked past his table. My friend wished him luck in finding a job, and for a moment I forgot my own struggles, feeling grateful for my friend, and for the root beer float that was in my belly.

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