Jack and his bean stock

I was 15, homeless and hadn’t eaten in 3 days. I could feel my body consuming the little bit of fat I’d stored. At 5’7″ weighing in at 110 pounds when I’d run away I knew I wouldn’t survive long without food. My initial attempts at panhandling met the blank looks of strangers and equalled the emptiness in my outstretched hand.
A homeless boy told me of a soup kitchen. I’d never heard of such a thing, and with wings sprouting from my tired feet I’d raced to the place to knock on the door to feel paralyzed by the words of the priest.
“We only serve men. Women have other ways of making money.” The breath bashed out of my lungs I could only stand there staring at the door he’d slammed.
I did the only thing I could think to do. I determinedly walked the dozen or so blocks back to downtown and entered the dreaded variety store. Feared because the owner, who I will call Jack, had a reputation for beating senseless anyone who robbed him. I think that was merely a rumour started because he hated the parking meters the city put in front of his side street store and he despised the meter maids he said always hovered nearby.
With boldness, I said to him, “I’m starving, and I don’t want to steal from you. Can you please give me some food.” He answered, “I ain’t no charity.” I said I’m certain there was desperation in my voice, “I know but I’ve been to the charity, and they won’t give me anything.”
He came around the counter, and I feared he was about to toss me into the road. Instead, he grabbed a can of baked beans from the shelf and handed it to me. Delighted I said, “Would you be able to open the can for me?” He looked at me to then say, “My can opener is at home.” I pointed to the can openers he had for sale on the wall. Wordlessly he opened my can and pushed the lid back.
He shoved the can across the counter to me and asked, “What are you going to eat it with?” I held up two fingers and smiled. He pulled out a plastic spoon from beneath his sales counter and handed it to me. I’d never seen such a thing and said to him, “I never knew they made them in plastic. I’ll wash it and bring it back to you.”
“Get out and don’t come back.” he snarled. I will always thank God for leading me to my Good Samaritan and his can of beans.
© Zora Zebic 2016

11 thoughts on “Jack and his bean stock

      1. Mostly on the kindness of strangers. It is a long time ago, more than 40 years. I used my experience to open a shelter for the homeless which I still run 17 years later.

        Liked by 1 person

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