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December 18, 2005

If You Serve Them, They Will Eat

On my way to becoming KFSC, I put on my red plaid and headed downtown Saturday. I can tell you right now that there are few things that compare to the feeling of giving somebody what they want. Forget all that teaching a man to fish for a moment. Sometimes just serving a big fat fish is as good as it gets. Although it wasn't fish that we were serving up but hotdogs, hamburgers, fries, potato salad, beans and gallons of red punch, it was great.

The event was fairly disorganized strictly from the perspective of a crabby left brainer such as myself, but all in all it went off without a hitch. My job, as I took it upon myself, was to take care of the men and those who had a hard time walking.

I'm having a hard time not breaking my arm patting myself on the back having done this. I mean it really wan't a whole lot of hard work. It was Santa Claus work. We had the goodies and I made myself subservient to the needs of the many and distrubted them from the pockets of the few. For a few short hours, I was the man in the mirror. I only wished that I could have gotten some more folks to be down with the program.

Well, it turns out that I will have all kinds of opportunities because the Adams Harbor is open every Saturday at noon. I was wondering how they got 1000 people to show up just like that, but it turns out that this is a regular thing. Next time we'll keep the digital cameras to a minimum. I still have a difficult time getting in people's faces with my camera, I really do think it's rather rude.

Nevertheless, I hung out for a short time with Rerun and Beverly and several other of the characters. One of the men who said he was a Vietnam Vet exposed to Agent Orange had pockets full of everything. He made me fetch him some Saran Wrap for his third burger, and when I couldn't find salt, he was coming out of his pockets with packets. He pulled me up short and said that when you're living on the street, you have to be prepared for everything.

I understand the attraction that reporters get when they get up close and personal. I don't know how to describe the internal feeling - the transformation you have to go through when you decide ahead of time that you are going to pay deep attention to the people you generally ignore. Since they're humans, they're always bound to surprise you, especially if you have no expectations whatsoever. But then if you know what to expect, when you get familiar, then you're just another person in the game. So the entanglement comes as no surprise. When you're a sheepdog like I am, all sheep are precious. Still, I was there to do a job. That job was waiter, and prefect. It's all about service.

I'm going to have some difficulty dealing with exactly where to put this sentiment. Part of it is humility to a task that ought to be done, maybe. Part of it is not having a real army to feed. The impulse to serve. Where does it come from and why is it pleasureable? How is it a force that is complicit in my (relative) oppression? How is it self-serving bourgie brownnosing? It would be easy for me to say it's just the Spirit of Christmas and leave it at that, but I can't. you know me, always over thinking. But I'll do more cogitating on that score as time goes by and I go back, hopefully with friends.

Meantime, the one thing that sticks out in my mind is that it's so easy to get people's attention. If you give it away for free, they will come. There's a Boyle's Law of humanity at work here. Free food gets eaten, free goods get taken. And the last thing I would ever do is deny any of those folks what they deserve - they deserve exactly what we were giving away - them that came, got. But that's part of the curious thing. Once you decide to do it, charity is too easy. It's way too easy. And that's why I'm feeling that it's not particularly virtuous. That's why the whole thing feels a little self-indulgent to me. I know there's a Conservative in the back of my head prodding me along this path, but having actually experienced this experience, I know that I'm learning something about human beings - about the back patting one gets when in service for the least of your brothers.

Until I get some resolution on this matter, I'm going to continue. This was just the first time. Let's see what happens next.

Posted by mbowen at December 18, 2005 10:58 PM

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Interesting observations. What is KFSC?

Posted by: Karen of Scottsdale at December 19, 2005 09:24 AM

Oh. That's the Kung Fu Santa Claus. I'd like to spend my life travelling the world and alternatively kicking ass and giving gifts. I need several million bucks and a black belt and measure myself against that ideal.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 19, 2005 09:39 AM

Too funny! LOL

Posted by: Karen of Scottsdale at December 19, 2005 01:11 PM