400 Calories

At the northwest corner of Crescent Heights and Wilshire this morning sat a weathered man holding a weathered piece of written-upon cardboard in one hand and a plastic cup in the other. I don’t remember what the sign said verbatim, but it included the words “Please Help” and gave information that the man was hungry and had no place to go and that he was a veteran of the Korean War.

Had the light been green to cross Wilshire and continue southward I would’ve just kept on going, but it was red and so I pulled beyond him and stopped and even though he was out of my sight he stayed in my mind — especially the word “hungry” — and so I pulled up onto the sidewalk and retrieved the container of yogurt and the banana and the Luna bar out of my backpack. It was to have been my 400-calorie breakfast consumed later at my desk, but suddenly I didn’t need it because he needed it more.

As I drew beside him, he jumped a little at the sound of my voice when I said “It ain’t much sir, but you’re welcome to it,” and then he gratefully accepted the items and said “God bless you” and I said “And you” and he caught sight of my bike with a sidelong glance and added “Be careful out there!” and I said “Thank you, take care” and I got on my way.