I love Sunday afternoons. I especially love Sunday afternoons in Los Angeles. I was having so much fun on one particular Sunday, that I decided to reschedule my flight that afternoon for Chicago to the next day. Of course, I was with close friends that day. That’s what happens on Sunday Fundays in SoCal.
Yesterday was no different. I went on a hike in the morning with Derek, his dog Tucker, and my dog Taylor at Westridge-Canyonwalk Trail. Tucker was off-leash. I kept Taylor by my side. It was beautiful.
That afternoon I shared margaritas with a couple of dear friends – first Shelley and later Lisa, which is really where this story begins.
Lisa and I were deep in conversation sitting at a table outside against a wall, when someone from behind jovially yelled, “hey buddy!”
I wheeled around to see a somewhat husky Mr. Miyagi ask me, “hey man, can you spare a dime or maybe get me some food?” I was in a good mood. I was having a conversation with a dear friend. Thanksgiving and Christmas was around the corner. Of course, I said yes.
He sat down on a seat at the table across from us. Clad in a dark blue sweater, wearing a long Fu Manchu, he was an interesting sight, with an over-the-top personality. He was loud and initially amiable. He was ex-military. “You know, man? Kids these days. They have no appreciation. They have no respect!” He may have looked like Mr. Miyagi, but he sounded like the guy in Kurt Russell’s “Big Trouble in Little China”.
I begged to differ. “I think you’re making a generalization. There are people – not just kids – that have no appreciation, that have no respect. But there are so many more that do! There are a lot of good people out there.”
I was feeling preachy, apparently. “Next person you meet, can you do something special for them?”
“What can I do? I got nothing, man!”
“We all have something. Even someone who thinks he has nothing has something to give. I don’t know what that is for you; only you can figure that out. What I do know is that doing something nice for a stranger will liberate you.”
“Yea, ok man!” Though he didn’t sound very convincing. Just then, the waitstaff at El Chollo converged with their manager upon Miyagi, about to kick him out. “He said I could sit, man!”
“It’s ok,” I confessed to the manager. “Would you mind getting him a menu, so he could eat?”
He had ordered the platter. A sample of almost everything El Chollo had could be found on that plate. “I served my country!” He was picking at his food, taking his time. I wondered when was the last time he’d had a meal like this.
Sincerely, I said “Thank you for that.” I’ve always admired the men and women who serve our country. I’m concerned for what happens to them afterwards. It’s not fair. This man was clearly homeless. I wondered what had happened to him. I wondered what he sacrificed to serve our country.
Mr. Miyagi went on and on; and for the most part he seemed harmless. Lisa and I were in a good conversation, so neither of us were paying us too much attention. And most of the time, I just asked him to eat up before his food got cold.
I’m not sure what happened, how it happened or even why, but all of a sudden, Mr. Miyagi wasn’t so happy. “You think you’re better than me?!? …What do you know about me, man!?!? …Why are you looking at me like that?!? …You think you’re better than me?” and so on. We weren’t going to talk with him anymore.
We paid our bill. And left. Looking back, Mr. Miyagi was busy eating the rest of his plate.
I’m still happy that he didn’t go hungry that night.
Wax on. Wax off.
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