I love chicken wings. If you know me, you already know this. But I don’t eat the skin – which you also know.
So, I’m in Boston for a conference, staying downtown in a four-star hotel. It’s nice. I decided to walk to a local pub known for their Boston pub-ishness. You know … baked beans and all. It was a crazy-busy place with an after-work crowd and music loud enough to make this grandma cringe. But I had walked there, and after all, it IS BOSTON! I found an empty two-top in the back and after a while, the waitress stopped by. I ordered 12 chicken wings. Okay, that does seem like a lot for the smallish person that I am, but in my defense, I had eaten only lunch (the lobster picked off a lobster roll and a few bites of coleslaw). And I never eat the skin, so that makes it okay – right?
The food came. I ate. And finally, I am stuffed to the gills. With three chicken wings left, the waitress came over to settle up and – on an impulse – I asked her for a small to-go box. She gave it to me. I put the chicken wings in the cardboard, paid my tab and headed back to the hotel.
On my way up the Tremont Street hill, I saw him.
A well-weathered man near my own age, sitting in a wheelchair because he has no legs. Hair sparkling with silver, his chair was backed up against the subway tunnel, and he seemed to be surrounded with friends as though this is his neighborhood. Maybe he comes here every day? I wish I knew.
I offered him the container of wings, and he looked up at me. “Thank you,” he said, humility quickly lowering his eyes. But before they escaped my view, I saw a softness register in them even years of hard living haven’t erased.
I handed him the wings and continued the trek to my hotel room. I’m not sure why, but this made me want to cry. It’s not the first time I’ve given leftovers or even my lunch money to the homeless. And hopefully not the last. I’m not a sociologist. I’m not a political activist. I’m not an idealist who thinks they know it all. And I can’t even begin to know how to fix a world this broken. But it makes me sad.
In a few days, wearing my one-and-a-half carat diamond ring, I’ll board a plane back home to my four-bedroom, four and-a-half-bathroom house. My five cats – who have the best medical care money can buy – will be glad to see me.
I wish I had eaten fewer of the wings.