May 14, 2006

The story my father told to my sons at dinner tonight

It was 1936. My father was five years old, and he lived on the north side of Snowstorm City, the Italian section. This was during the depression and he was used to seeing men wandering through the neighborhood, looking for work, and often for food. His mother gave them sandwiches sometimes.

One day when my father was hiding in the backyard, playing some kind of childhood game, he saw a man come and go through the trash can at the curb. This was a fairly common practice. He watched the man root through the garbage until he came to the halves of an orange that my father had had for breakfast. The man picked up the leftover rinds and eagerly ate the pulp that still stuck to them.

Seventy years later, my father still remembers this scene. "I remember thinking how hungry that man must have been."

7 comments:

liz said...

Sadly, it's a common sight in New York. And Washington, DC.

Seventy years....you'd think hunger would be gone by now.

Leslee said...

Sometimes, when I stay up way past my bedtime, I let my mind wonder. If we are alone in this vast universe, and this planet is the only one that can sustain life, why can't we take care of everyone here? Why do we have some people with so much money they can have want for nothing and we have so many more that would just like to have a decent warm meal that they didn't have to find in a trash can. I wonder if this world will ever figure this problem out.

zelda1 said...

I remember when I was young, before free lunches, and there were children poor, a lot more poor than we were and while I didn't eat lunch every single day, I always had a big breakfast. But Emily, a girl in my class, never had much to eat or wear and one day I saw her eating out of the trash cans at school. The other kids were teasing her, but she kept looking for food. It was one of the days that I had food, and I had a popsickle that was on my tray and I wanted it so badly but instead of eating it, I gave it to her. It amazed me then and now that the teachers didn't give her free food. They new, had to know that some of us went without lunches but to them we were the unseen, or so I think.

Teri said...

I see this too - there are plenty of homeless and hungry around here. Which leads me to - what more could I be doing to help? hmmmm... must look into it.

ccw said...

I agree with liz. What a shame that 70 years later we witness such extreme acts of hunger.

claire said...

I love your father and I hate how things have not changed. With kids like ours who really care about people less fortunate than we are, perhaps we can make a difference. Again, I totally love your father.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Poignant! I'm glad that your father remembers and shares these things and I hope your boys hear them.

I had a period in my life that was much like that. Eating other people's trash. Living on the streets. I want to remember what it feels like and be sympathetic and as helpful as possible.