Yesterday evening my wife and I decided we didn't want to cook, and we had the dogs in the back of the Subaru, so we didn't want to spend too much time in a restaurant, so we went to a local grocery store to check out the hot food bar. While we were selecting our dinner from the roast chicken, cheese lasagna, chicken pot pie, salad greens, etc, I noticed a couple of young people watching.
This young couple were probably in their early 20's, although I find that more and more everyone under 30 looks like a child, so they could have been 19 or maybe 25. I didn't ask. They were both clean, they had casual clothes on, jeans, the young man had a t-shirt with something written on it and the young woman was wearing some type of blouse. She was blonde, he had modestly short but not cropped black hair. They were unremarkable in appearance. Not making a scene. They may have been your neighbor's kids from down the block, it may have been your son or your daughter. Caucasians with the 'no accent' that tells you 'Californian'.
As I was getting my food, I noticed that they were interested in the food, but quietly conferring with each other and not loading one of the little waxed paper boxes that the store provides. Their interest did not seem to be of an academic nature....they were hungry.
A few minutes later my wife and I had paid for our food and sat at one of the tables in the very informal dining area. Metal table top, metal chairs, plastic utensils & cheap napkins at the counter. The dogs were in the car, we weren't out for fine dining.
I mentioned to my wife, "Did you see those kids at the food bar?"
"Yes" she replied.
I added, "I think they were hungry and had no money."
She asked if we should give them some money....and taking $10 she went looking for them.
When she came back to the table, she said she found them, the girl holding a bag of edamame. They were going to have soybeans along with some things that they had at home. Sharon gave the girl the $10 and suggested that they get something more. A few minutes later, they proceeded to checkout. They had added something else, maybe fresh salad? The girl came and gave my wife a hug, and said "Thank you! Have a nice weekend."
This is America in the new millennium. Our neighbors, the kids down the street, maybe you or me, hungry. Longingly looking at the food in the grocery store the way a previous generation eyed new cars in the showroom.
"If only I had $7.99 plus tax I could get a pound of Shepherd's Pie or cheese lasagna and green salad."
How many times a day is that playing across this land of plenty? With official unemployment at 9.5% nationwide, and 5 applicants for every 1 job opening available, I'd guess that its happening a lot. Its just that most of them are not standing at the hot food counter while I'm there.
I don't begrudge helping someone get something to eat, but I can't stand there all day to see who is looking but not buying. I don't think food stamps is the right answer either. Maybe we need an industrial policy in this country, one with tax policy that rewards job creation in these 50 states instead of in Guangdong province? Naw, that flys in the face of free market capitalism. That wouldn't be American, would it?