World Leader Pretend

Christmas is my favorite holiday.  The main reason for that is because it is the one holiday that I get to see all my siblings.  It is a wonderful day, for numerous reasons, but it is also kind of depressing for me because of something that I witnessed/was a part of in my teenage years.

I was working the drive thru window at McDonald’s on a late December day as Christmas neared.  People payed at the first window and then drove to mine for me to hand them their order.  Of course, I was wearing a headset so I could hear the order being placed at the speaker and get a jump start on getting it ready.  And that is when I heard an order placed that I will never forget.

“I’d like one Big Mac, 6 small [i.e. free] waters, and could you put a knife in the bag?”

By the time they had paid at the first window and arrived at mine, I noticed several things.  It was a family of six – husband and wife, or some variation thereof – and four small children.  They were all crammed into a small car that was probably 15 or 20 years old.  (This occurred in the late 80s when it was easy to spot older model vehicles.)  They had no heat in the car, as evidenced by the fact that they were all bundled up in heavy coats and winter hats.  (It was a very cold night.)

It was an easy order, of course, and I had it ready when they reached my window.  But my mind was racing as all the evidence slotted in various areas of my brain.  Obviously, this guy scraped up $2 to buy a meal for the family to share.  A Big Mac cut in six sections does not go very far, considering the two meat patties combined only weigh 3.2 ounces.  But to them, this was probably a huge deal – living large, so to speak.

Needless to say, a few extra burgers and a lot of french fries made it into that bag as I passed it along.  I told the driver “Merry Christmas” and they drove away.

That all happened about 25 years ago, and I have thought of that moment every single Christmas since.  I don’t have a neat and tidy ending for this story because that was my one and only interaction with that family.  Were they local?  Just passing through?  What led them down the road that $2 had to feed the entire family?

But here is the cool thing:  It doesn’t matter.  Everyone of us is one bad decision from being in the exact same situation as they were.  My wish is that I gave them a little hope that night, even if it was filled with food that most disdain.  So here is the point I’m laboring to make.

Christmas might be over (or very close to being so), but that doesn’t mean the season of giving has to be over.  And you don’t have to seek out charities to contribute.  Chances are you have multiple opportunities in a single day to make someone’s day better just by doing something nice.  Something, dare I say, human.

As the calendar page flips to January in a week, I urge you to remember this story.  Because this is not a once-a-year story for countless others.

Merry Christmas.


2 thoughts on “World Leader Pretend

  1. There but for the grace of God go I.

    My ex and I disagreed on this. I would hand over change to alkies and tweakers, and she didn’t approve. I said circumstances we had no control over could put us in the same spot. As I said, she didn’t agree.

    Two spots near me are popular with homeless, their cardboard signs reminding anything helps, God bless. Others live under the dry freeway overpass a few meters west from my front door. I give them a couple bucks more often than not. Do they drink it, smoke it, shoot it up? Maybe, but I think that’s more projection on the part of those with billions of dollars who don’t give any, whose determination to get through the eye of the needle is making the planet broke.

    Reading this makes me honored to know you.

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