It’s Saturday evening, and I’m grumpy because I have to attend a reception for work. And wear a suit.

At the event, the honoree–a peace activist–speaks of how each person we meet influences us, writing something in the book of our life. After his remarks, we’re fed ginger-glazed salmon, rare roast beef, and grilled vegetables. There’s wine and sparkling water aplenty. In many ways, it’s a typical Washington, DC reception.

I stay and chit chat just long enough to be polite, then head to a nearby bar to try and reclaim something of the weekend. Two drinks later, I haven’t spoken with anyone but the bartender, when in walks an old friend-of-a friend whom I haven’t seen in an age. He greets me with a kiss on the cheek, tells me I look well, then sits down further away with his entourage.

Seeing him surrounded by friends, I leave feeling more lonely than when I arrived. Clearly greasy food is called for.

Outside of the fast food restaurant, an older man with a cane says, “Young man, can you help me get something to eat?” “Sure,” I say nodding, and we enter the place, which is about to close for the night. While we wait for our order, he talks about the local baseball team. I nod and smile, not having the heart to tell him that I can’t stand sports in any form. When the food arrives, he thanks me. We shake hands and wish each other a good evening.

When I think of how much hunger there is in the world, providing one meal to one man seems vastly inadequate. But in this age of online giving, it felt good to do something immediate and real for a person standing right in front of me.

On my way home, I think about tales of gods and goddesses who would disguise themselves as an old person asking for help. I like the thought of feeding god, not in the abstract sense of some ethereal being, but in the sense that each of us is holy and deserving of care.

That evening, I gave a hungry man a meal, and he gave a lonely man a sense of connection. It was more than a fair exchange.

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