Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Hunger (11/08/04)
TITLE: Hunger No More
By Al Boyce
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"Me too," Jim chuckled.
Jim tousled 13-year-old Michael's hair and laughed again.
"I know the perfect place," he said, thinking of Denny’s waffles.
“And (he paused dramatically before pulling a slip of paper from his wallet) we've got a coupon!"
Jim pulled their car into a grocery store to grab a few items. He noticed an older Saturn station wagon parked right in front.
As they watched, a woman and teen-age boy came out of the store with two shopping carts overflowing with food. They began systematically stacking food in the car and prepared to leave.
"What could they possibly do with that much food?" Jim asked aloud. And almost without conscious thought, he started following the Saturn.
"Uh dad?" Michael said with raised eyebrows.
"Don't ask," Jim replied. "Yes, I'm following them and no, I don't know why."
They soon found themselves in front of another grocery. This time, as the pair got out of the Saturn, they paused near a battered pickup truck. Inside the truck Jim could see what looked like a Hispanic couple with at least four or five children packed in the tiny back seat.
After some coaxing, the Hispanic woman accepted an armload of food from the station wagon and began smiling, nodding. Jim heard some Spanish and something that sounded like "angel."
The pair from the station wagon soon emerged from the store, this time with three shopping carts full of food.
"Curiouser and curiouser," Jim muttered.
Soon he was following the station wagon again.
At seemingly random locations, the Saturn would put on its flashers, stop, and the woman would jog a short way into the woods, carrying a bulging bag, emerging empty handed.
After a half dozen such stops, the Saturn circled into a parking lot, stopped in front of a building and began shuttling the food inside. It was a food bank.
Some of it was starting to make sense, but Jim wasn't ready to stop playing detective.
They drove back to the last grocery store and went inside to inquire about the food. They were greeted by an African-American woman with a big smile.
"We were curious about the woman who got all that food a while ago," Jim said.
The woman's eyes narrowed a little and he could sense she was becoming protective of the pair he'd been following.
"All that food you saw, if it wasn't for them, it would be in that big green dumpster out back," she said.
"Wow," he said. "That's a lot of food to throw away in one week."
"One week? That was just from today," she said.
The woman watched their reactions, then tore off a small sheet of paper and scribbled a name and phone number on it.
"Here," she said. "There's hundreds of grocery stores dumping food every day. Find one in your neighborhood, call this number and they'll get you the paperwork to sign them up."
"But this is crazy," Jim said. "We hear about the homeless and the hungry every day and think there's nothing we can do about it. And you're telling me I could feed 50 people with a couple hours of my time?"
"The Lord provides for those who do His will," she replied.
Jim and Michael were subdued as they returned to their car. Jim took them back to one of the places the station wagon had paused, put on his flashers, and the two got out.
A few yards into the woods, on a barely visible path, they found an abandoned shopping cart. Inside it was a bag full of sandwiches, a salad, some fruit and a piece of apple crumb cake.
Paper clipped to the bag was a note:
We missed seeing you Thursday and hope you are doing well.
We remembered how much you like apple crumb cake. The Lord provided some today.
We hope to get a warm coat to you soon.
We are praying for you.
All our love
Your family in Christ
They carefully retraced their steps to the car, then Michael broke the silence.
"I'm hungry Dad!" he said.
Jim looked sideways at his son and was surprised to see a different person than this morning.
Jim nodded slowly and said, "Me too."
"I know the perfect place," he said, his smile growing wider by the minute.
He paused dramatically before pulling out the slip of paper from the deli manager.
"And we've got a coupon!"