Chicken grease for the soul

USA Sevens Friends

Good friends are hard to find. (l-r) Isoa, Ta, me and Stoon

I stopped reading emails that are forwarded to me years ago. I have an aversion to emails that are forwarded from the ‘unknown’ because like most people in the software and computer industries I’m afraid of viruses, worms, spam and all things technologically destructive to my little niche in the cyber-universe. I’ve created extra filters in my inbox to make sure that emails that are not caught by my spam filters are dropped directly into my trash. They scare me. That and the fact that I know all of my family so if one of my cousins calls and says that they are stranded somewhere and need money chances are they are at Boondocks with the kids are at the mall playing a prank on me; Also, I only donate to charities I’m familiar with and who have a paper trail that I can track; and if someone has lost their kidneys or sent their money to some African prince through a Swiss bank account, chances are they need more help than I can provide.

But my sister sent me an email yesterday titled “Breakfast at McDonalds” that I opened because I thought she was inviting to pay for my most important and least expensive meal of the day. Sadly it was not an offer to fill my belly. Gratefully, it provided me with a chance for introspection (I know, I do it a lot with minimal triggers-it’s what we old people do).

The gist of it is this: Couple and kid go to McDee’s. Repulsive homeless dudes show up, drop a stink bomb and clear other patrons from the dining area. Woman has compassion, buys the dudes lunch, gives her kid a lesson in life while chomping down on McSympathy and hash browns washed down with a steaming hot cup of McDo-Gooder.

I’m a natural born skeptic. I’m the kid who wouldn’t hesitate to stomp on a hat if a magician made a bunny disappear in it. If someone says someone else did something spectacular like hit 70 home runs in one year or run the 100-meters in under ten-seconds I’ll ask them for a drug test. It’s just my nature.

Sometimes you just have to set aside the skepticism and put your trust in people. When you do, you get to see great things happen right before your eyes. Acts of courage, altruism, heroism. That’s when you start to believe in the human race again. You start to feel like there really are good people out there who aren’t trying to steal your identity, car-jack you or just plain rob you of your faith and trust.

I was witness to a real act of kindness and compassion. One that caught me off guard even though I’ve seen it happen many times when I’m with friends. Which also illustrates a possible character flaw in me: I’m very selective of my friends – something I’ll let you in on in the future….maybe.

Anyway, I was in Las Vegas with my sons and friends for the USA Sevens recently, a trip we make annually no matter where the USA Sevens is played. After the first day of competition we rushed to find a buffet that was open to quell our long ignored appetites. At 10pm there really aren’t a lot of buffet’s in Vegas who care about your hunger pangs.

So we ended up at a local KFC. It was dirty and in a part of town you wouldn’t allow your children to inhale for fear they might go from sober to under the influence in seconds. All that aside, we’re standing at the counter giving our order to the reluctant kid on the other side in the red and white striped hat who looks at you funny when you order the 60-piece chicken meal. Hey man, its on your menu! Don’t look at me like I made it up.

Our 60-pieces of chicken and a dozen sides arrives at our table and we dig in with gusto when suddenly some dude in a soiled brown overcoat wearing a dinghy baseball cap is babbling incoherent sweet-nothings to your group through chapped lips and a dirty beard.

“I wanna chucken…can you gimme a piece ‘o ‘dat chucken?” is about all we could decipher, his eyes glazed over as he stared down at our disappearing bucket of goodness.

Dilemma! What do we do and how do we react? It took all of 10 seconds before one guy in the group grabbed a plate and started dishing out mashed potatoes and gravy, another scooped some coleslaw on it and a third topped off the meal by placing two large pieces of chicken on the plate. All the while, our conversation about rugby never ceased. A meal fit for a king. It was as if it was a daily occurrence. I had nothing to do with it. I just sat there in awe of these men whom I have called friends all these years. I’m proud of them. My sons learned a valuable lesson from them. They consider them roles models and think very highly of them.

Yeah, I know its not hard to sacrifice when you’re elbow-deep in 60-pieces of chicken but what really stood out to me was the nonchalance in which the act of kindness was carried out. It led me to the realization that each one of us has compassion. We understand what it’s like to have 50-cents in your pocket and realize that we don’t even have enough to buy a stinking burger from the dollar menu! There are people out there who have it worse than you do. In these difficult financial times, its nice to know that there are people in my circle of friends who are willing to give a little to help someone else in need.

I’ve come across a lot of people like that in my life. Most of them would be embarrassed, maybe even spiting-mad if I mentioned their names here. But I have never nor will I ever forget their kindness, especially if it had anything to do with me, my family and my extended family. Sometimes it’s a single person, other times it’s a group of people. There are people out there who give me the desire and the motivation to want to be a better person. They have blessed my life and I hope to do the same for others.

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