Monday, July 23, 2012

The Most Generous Person I've Ever Known

14" x 11"
Oil on Canvas

I love this guy! His name is not Robin. It's James. He volunteered to pose for me while I was in Wilmington a few years ago. He was a riot. James lived in a homeless shelter and was doing some work on a movie set. He told me it was a dream come true for him. "And they feed us good," he told me with a laugh.

Talking to James made me feel good. He was one of a few dozen people from the shelter that got rounded up to be extras in this movie I was in. The odds of you seeing the movie are very slim, but the experience was fun, nonetheless.

When I met James I was about 20 pounds heavier, maybe more. I was eating a lot of fast food and I think at night elves were coming into my room and making me eat butter packets. I was in terrible shape. This was before I did my first 1/2 marathon. There was a point on the set of the movie that we had to dance for about 5 minutes at a time, over and over and over. It wasn't crazy dancing, but it was the middle of August in an abandoned warehouse that they tried to make look like a 1930's dance club. It was hot as an inmates skivvies in there!

So, on one of the breaks we all went outside and just sat around. Then, James came up to me and said, "I don't know if I should share this with anybody, but I think I found some doughnuts."

"Found some doughnuts?" I asked. "Where?"

"There's another food table around the corner," he said. "I don't know if we can have any of that. They have better food than we have."

The Extras get a table of drinks and snacks. Movies with higher budgets tend to have better food choices for everyone. The Stars of the movie also have tables of food. Their food is better than ours. I told James that.

James gave me this huge grin. "That's what I thought," he said with a self congratulatory nod. "I knew that stuff was too good for us."

I laughed. "Good thing we like energy bars."

James laughed harder. Too hard. He walked away still laughing.

Later, I saw James sharing a few doughnuts with some of the guys from the shelter. I immediately fell in love with him. I called him Robin Hood after that. We worked together for a few more days before our stint was done on the movie set. Everyday he would somehow sneak over to the Stars table and snag a little something and share it with some of the others from the shelter. As far as I know, he never told them where the food was, and he never seemed to hoard a bunch of it. Just enough to share.

On the last day he walked up to me and sat down. We were eating lunch. Well, I was eating lunch. Something that was chicken-like, with some rice and gravy and a roll that wasn't half bad. And Gatorade. They LOVED to serve us Gatorade. James didn't have anything.

"You already eat, Robin Hood?"

He laughed. He really liked that moniker. "Yep," he said with pride.

"I'm thinking of getting seconds," I said. We had at least an hour before they needed any of us, so we were just standing around eating and trying to find shade wherever we could.

James said, "Yeah? You still hungry?"

I patted my gut. "I can always eat!" A little self deprecation goes a long way, sometimes.

James grinned. "Good," he said. He unslung his backpack from over his shoulder and put it down. He unzipped it and reached in and pulled out the biggest god damned sandwich I ever saw! It was like a Scooby-Doo sandwich, all wrapped in plastic wrap. "This is for you."

"What? Where the hell did you get that?"

"I made it," he said proudly. "They have a sandwich table over there today. I was going to make a couple sandwiches but I thought it would be too hard. And I knew you never turned me in for feeding the guys, so I made you a sandwich. I know you like to eat!" He laughed that amazing laugh of his.

I knew very little about James. There were a couple things I knew with certainty.

1. James wasn't a fan of washing his hands.
2. James was fond of picking his nose.
3. James was one of the nicest humans I'd ever met.

I unwrapped that sandwich, thought about James' nasty hands, looked at the sandwich that was loaded with roast beef and ham and turkey and lettuce and tomatoes and three kinds of cheese and mayo and brown mustard and, I shit you not, a tiny tomato on top stuck on with a tooth pick.

It was the best sandwich I've ever eaten before or since.

I never saw James after that day. But I've never forgotten him, either. He was one of the most generous men I've ever known, and I hope he's doing well.

Here's to you, James!



  1. Nicely done babe. This story will go in the anthology.

  2. That was really lovely. I'm glad you ate the sandwich.

    1. Jo, it was never really a consideration otherwise. You can't push away that kind of generosity!

  3. I've seen you eat hot, sticky MRE's from the dirt at the bottom of a foxhole. And that was after you hadn't washed your hands for 3 months! That sammich couldn't have been any worse...

    1. Yeah, but those MREs had peanut butter and crackers in them. AND tuna casserole. Yum! Tuna casserole and peanut butter crackers in 110 degree heat!

  4. A very nice tribute from one good guy to the next.