When Ham and Cheese Did Please One

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Some of you may remember that I pass out ham and cheese sandwiches on Thanksgiving eve. I have been doing this for years as a way of paying back a promise I made when I was homeless and hungry. I made a solemn pact that if I ever got myself out of this predicament I would find a way to ease the plight of those like myself. Someway, somehow, I would find a way. As I got back on my feet again I thought about the best way to help the homeless. Well, I certainly couldn’t get them a home. So I thought for a moment and I remembered that I really didn’t like being hungry all the time. That’s it!

I’ll ease their hunger, if even for a brief moment, and with that, I was making sandwiches. What better day to pass them out than the day before Thanksgiving. So over the years I would pinch pennies, collect cans, scurry up scrap metal and cash it all in. I’d finish it off with a contribution out of my own pocket and head to the store. 16 to 20 loaves of bread, 16 packs of Oscar Meyer cooked ham, 9 packages of Kraft individual cheese slices and 5 or 6 jars of Miracle Whip. Usually this made 150 sandwiches, give or take a sandwich or two. Stuff them into sandwich baggies and stack them into three Coleman coolers. Put them in the car and off I would go.

I would pass them out, two at a time, and in an hour, maybe two, they would be gone. I would go to the places I used to hang out, the rescue mission, anywhere downtown that the homeless would congregate. I never had any problems until last year when someone stole the rest of my stock after about a half hour into distribution. That turned into a paradigm shift so to speak. A Robin Hood sort of fellow held me up at gunpoint only to give them out to a huge conglomerate of the suffering sort. Women and children included. It was a wow moment for sure. I sort of asked for it because I was alone and in a seedy part of town.

This year wasn’t any different. I was alone and in a run down area, but that’s where the hungry is usually found. I remember passing the rescue mission and giving out a few sandwiches to a small crowd there. That is the first time I can recall one of them following me. Oh great, here we go again. I wasn’t bothered at all. I just kept right on strolling and searching for hungry people.

On I went, one block here, another section there, but still, I was followed. Every now and then I would peak back over my shoulder, in a nonchalant sort of manner. Not wanting to give notice that I knew, but I wanted to be aware just in case. Yep, still there about fifty feet behind me. This time I stopped and turned directly around just to let them know that I now know. This stopped them right in their tracks, but they didn’t run off. Just stood there.

As I continued to probably the last place for me to visit, I was getting to the last of the ham and cheese; I really wanted to know the true intention of my follower. I am not a big fellow, but I certainly know how to stand my own ground. I looked intently and really didn’t recognize or remember giving a couple of sandwiches to what I now consider a stalker. Maybe that’s it. They were following me because I forgot to give them a couple.

I looked into my plastic grocery bag and I had four left. I gave two to an old, but very thankful lady, and I decided to confront my all night attachment. I took the last two sandwiches and proceeded in a hurried motion right toward them. I slipped the ham and cheese out of the baggies and bent down on one knee. My follower was hesitant to approach so I opened the two pieces of bread to show then what I was offering. They took one step and gave me a perplexed and unsure look.

I took the ham off and threw it toward them and in one big gulp they ate it right off of the sidewalk. This hit a switch and before I could reach out my hand with the rest of the sandwiches they were there in front of me wanting the rest. I gave both sandwiches and the follower put them down and gulped them piece-by-piece. I watched in amazement and with a great big tail wag, he came over and licked my face to no end. Whimpering in a happy tone this little dog was as thankful as any human that night. He was too shy to come up directly and ask, but followed me all night with a persistence that deserved reward.

And with the wet thank you, off the little guy, er excuse me, little girl went. A joy hopping trot. A full little belly and no worse for wear. She loved those ham and cheese sandwiches and even showed me and even that gesture made feel as though my chore for the night was fully and rightly complete. Go figure. I walked humbly back to my car knowing that one did indeed like ham and cheese. Even if it was a little doggie.

Jeff Payne

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