scruffy man with backpack and a big dog was sitting on a low stone
wall outside the grocery store I was about to enter on Christmas day.
He wore a dirty old cap with the earflaps half up and looked like
a Tesla with the doors open. A cardboard sign leaned against his chest.
It said he was hungry and so was his dog. He said his name was Charlie
and so was the dog's.
I asked if I might bring him something to eat. He said, "How about
a chicken?" I thought, if anybody needs a chicken, it's this guy.
I went in the store, picked one out, and surmised a chicken by itself
isn't good enough, Charlie should have mashed potatoes. But plain
mashed potatoes aren't as good as they are with gravy, so I got gravy.
And chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy aren't as nutritious by
themselves, so I added other vegetables. Charlie would likely need
something to drink, so I got some juice and water, and a plate of
Then I thought that it wouldn't be polite of him to eat his nice dinner
in front of a hungry dog, and added a 40-pound bag of kibble to the
"So this is what it feels like to be selfless," I thought. I liked
the feeling and made a mental Post-It to do it again sometime.
I pushed the basket outside to where the man and the dog waited. "All
yours to enjoy," I said, handing off the basket. But as the dog joyously
spun in circles of anticipation, the man seemed far less excited.
He stared at the bag of dog food, then stared at his backpack. Even
Quasimodo's backpack would've been dwarfed by that much dog food.
Now I see the problem. (I'm not quick, but I'm thorough.)
Charlie said he was truly grateful for the food, but unless I was
planning to also contribute a car to take them back to the bridge
they currently lived under, would I mind if he returned the food and
kept the refund. I could hardly say no, since his dilemma was created
It's almost two months since that day, and I often think of the Charlies.
Are they hungry? Do they have a place to stay? Do they remember me?
I started out wanting to help someone, and ended up needing a psychiatrist.
I don't know what "enough" is. I only know what it isn't.