Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

By Sean Buvala

two blueberry muffins in white paper cupsNow understand I didn’t say that, the guest said it. Our story happened at a soup kitchen, a place where the homeless and the hungry get a free meal, in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. But like all true experiences, it could have just as easily been in your own city.

“Do you want a muffin?” the high school girl in charge of “pastries” asked.

“Well, yeah,” the homeless man, the dinner line guest, replied.

When she handed him his halved blueberry muffin, he paused and asked simply, “Do you have any chocolate ones? I don’t like blueberries very much.”

She gladly began to dig a little deeper into the pastry box to find a chocolate dessert. It was a little slow that day, so she could take the time to treat the man’s request with some respect. When you only serve 385 meals in an hour instead of normal 600, you have a moment or two.

He seemed surprised that this fifteen-year-old girl actually cared enough to look. I think it might have embarrassed him.

He stopped her and said, “Nah, that’s all right. I guess beggars can’t be choosers. Please give me the blueberry one. God bless you,” he mumbled and took his plate to his seat.

When is the last time you had to let someone else choose your food for you? I bet it has been a long time since your Mom chose your strained veggies for the day. Most of us can go to our refrigerator and choose when or what we will eat: fish or chicken, milk or soda, blueberry or chocolate. It seems so simple, but for this guest on this day, it wasn’t.

No, don’t feel bad because you aren’t hungry or homeless. Rather, take some time to offer thanks that you probably have a roof over your head, food in your refrigerator and a family that knows where you are. And if you are feeling thankful, come serve in a soup kitchen a few times a month. Help someone who doesn’t have a choice over what muffins he gets. All these kinds of places need more volunteers, but no one can make you go.

After all, beggars can’t be choosers.

©2002, 2014 Sean Buvala. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction of this story in any form is prohibited without the permission of the author.

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