Her husband died of prostate cancer. She grieved long and hard. People worried she’d never get over it. She told my aunt she didn’t want to get over it.
So she didn’t.
Not until the fateful day she went grocery shopping and noticed the homeless folks begging at a busy Atlanta intersection—a popular corner among people looking for handouts.
She’d ignored them in times past, like most do. But something touched her. It was an ordinary-looking man and his son.
He held a cardboard sign, reading: “Son is hungry.”
She drove by. Then, regret overwhelmed her. She turned around and put twenty bucks in his hand. If she would’ve had more, she would’ve given it.
“I couldn’t bear to think that boy was going hungry,” she said.
She saw him a few days later. She gave more. And that’s when the Mama Bear in her awakened. They were feelings she hadn’t felt since her husband died.
“I’m a feeder,” she told me. “And I knew they weren’t eating real, hot food.”
This would never do.
She went home and rediscovered her apron. She cooked things like casseroles in foil dishes—and cornbread. It was the first time she’d used her kitchen since her husband.
The next day, she went to the intersection but didn’t see the man nor his son. Instead, it was a young woman asking for cash.
“The food was still hot,” she said. “So I gave it to her. You should’a seen her face. Was like I gave her gold.”
She returned to her kitchen. Twice as many foil dishes. Twice the cornbread.
Again she visited. No man. No son. This time, it was an older gentleman with girlfriend and a Labrador. She gave them paper bags. They God-blessed her.
She God-blessed back.
It wasn’t long before her church friends got in on the action. A handful of ladies cooked every Wednesday.
Soon, they were opening the fellowship hall doors to under-privileged kids, out of work parents, elderly folks, and anyone who liked cornbread that wasn’t from a box.
She did this twenty-two years.
“I believe,” she says. “That man and his son were angels. Wasn’t for them, I’d never have realized my purpose. I’d still be a lonely old widow.”
She doesn’t cook anymore. She lives in a rest home with a cafeteria only feet from her bedroom—she tells me the cornbread is mediocre at best. She has her own nurse. She’s not lonely.
I asked how many people she thinks she’s fed over the years.
She looked me in the eyes and said, “Not enough. Not nearly enough. How about you?”
Will Hataway - November 21, 2016 10:14 pm
Sir I look forward to your stories. I come from a town 40 miles east of Brewton. So small that Andalusia and Brewton are big cities compared to my Opp but we still knocked their socks off in football back in the day
Carol Wilkinson - January 24, 2017 3:16 pm
Brings back so many memories of my step-father, Buddy Barnhill who lived on Ferris Hill in Milton, Fl. Buddy never passed anyone on the side of the road without offering food, a place to stay, and a job if they needed one. He and his first wife had 14 children and adopted 2 more, then accepted all 5 of my mom’s girls without blinking. He took in every troubled kid and homeless man he ever found. I live in Nashville now where there is somebody with a sign on almost every corner, and I still try to make sure I have a little cash to give when I am waiting for the light to change. Thanks Sean.