It wasn’t me that was hungry, it was my father.
For so long he was hungry for everything but food to nourish him, he was an addict. Homeless, in and out of jail, and suffering from the disease of drug and alcohol addiction as well as mental illness. Something we never talked about. My father, a man I only met once, only one day when I went to the corner of Central and 3rd… where the homeless hang out, just days before my HS graduation. To see the man who chose drugs and alcohol over his own family, and to show him that there is compassion and forgiveness out there.
Notice I say it was just me. My grandparents who raised me and my own mother would have had a full on hissy fit had they known what I was up to.
I instantly recognized him, behind the weathered bloodshot eyes, dirty face and pea coat he wore in 90 Florida heat. With him were two others, worn, dirty, exhausted from addiction and they were emptying out a garbage bag from the restaurant they were behind, and eating the contents of leftover and discarded food. In that moment, it wasn’t about me anymore, and I was so angered that these humans had to eat garbage. Discarded food. Their addiction and mental illness and had driven them to the streets. Without disclosing who I was, I went and got them some proper food, and the address of a place where they could get more, free of judgement.
Today, I volunteer with an organization that feeds our Hungry community without judgement with groceries to sustain them. We also provide a monthly meal and ‘closet’ for clothes. This outreach is so close to my heart, because statistically 70% of the homeless and hungry in my city suffer from addiction and or mental illness. Those two factors combined leave them without ability to function, work, provide for themselves… and they go hungry, and forgotten.
My father lies in a small grave, no memorial service, just a clipping in the paper about his death. He was robbed by another homeless man, for a pack of cigarettes and $1.50. I will never forget that hot May afternoon where I sat with my father and his friends and ate a bucket of chicken and drank lemonade. I’ll never be sure he recognized me or not, but I will always remember his appreciative smile that seemed to say ‘Thank you for being human’.
No one, young, old, homeless, mentally ill, addicted should ever have to go hungry.
Story submitted by Kimberly Rae Cole.