Soup

If I commit an act of kindness even while feeling a bit, say, reluctant, does it still count as a kindness?

Sometimes people come into the café who are hungry and have no money. I feed them anyway. I don’t always feel good about this. And I don’t feel good about not feeling good.

I am not by nature a generous person. I am guarded. I don’t love without condition. I don’t even know what that means. But I’d like to learn.

Yesterday a man wandered in and stood talking with me for a few minutes before turning and walking back out. He wore a winter jacket and a sock cap. He told me he was staying across the street at the shelter. “That’s okay,” I said. He shook his head. “No. It isn’t.”

“You’re right,” I said. “It isn’t.”

He didn’t want lunch. Or maybe he did, but didn’t want to accept any more charity. I don’t know. He left before I could figure out how to give him lunch without stepping on his self-respect.

Today a couple came in, and I got another chance. “It’s his turn to eat,” the woman said. “We don’t have but fifty cents.” I said I’d bring food for both of them. “Not for me,” she said. “It’s his turn.”

I brought a bowl of soup and an extra spoon. “In case you change your mind,” I said.

“Nope. I ate upstairs.”

I’m sure I frowned. The building was empty today except for those of us in the kitchen. “You did?”

“A couple weeks ago. We all ate upstairs.”

When I came back a few minutes later, the bowl was empty. “It’s was good,” the man said. “Different.”

“It’s made with lentils,” I told him. “And sweet potatoes.”

Across the table, the woman nodded. “I thought those were sweet potatoes.”

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