Helping the hungry: Food for thought

Ted, a One Step Away vendor, recalls a thoughtful moment from Thanksgiving 2012.

I became involved with One Step Away around this time in 2012, when I was trying to get through the holidays. Working with One Step Away, I’m able to provide for myself now – but the holidays alway makes me remember a time when I used to have to beg for food.

Around the week of the Thanksgiving holiday, I was hungry and struggling to find food. So, I had taken to meandering outside of some of the local restaurants in Center City to ask people for their boxes of leftovers. I liked this compared to asking people to buy me food, because the food was always better and it took a lot less time to get something.

I suppose this was something I pulled from experiences I had in the restaurant industry, where people would ask for things they couldn’t eat to be packaged — and then left it on the table. My best guess is they were full and didn’t want to carry a bag home with them – like they wouldn’t miss it if it were gone. And so in the beginning when I would do this, even though I was afraid of what they might say or think of me, I felt it was better to ask for their leftovers if they didn’t want it.

One particular November evening I left the train station with my gear and went over to an area where I liked to ask people for food. Within minutes I came upon a mother and daughter coming out of a restaurant with bags in their hands. I approached them and asked politely if they would mind letting me have their leftover food.

 Never in the short interaction that we had did I receive any signal that me, or my solicitation, were unwelcome or unappreciated. And without saying a word they both turned over their bags and hugged each other. I left and ate their food.

At the time I didn’t really think about everything that went into that moment or what was going on with that situation. As time went on I came to appreciate those total strangers, as I was able to pull what I could from my recollection. The best I can come to is that we all had distinct value to that situation.

Had I not been there to ask for something, they wouldn’t have realized what they had. Probably none of us would’ve appreciated that particular Thanksgiving so much.