Occupy Life: he bought a corvette

He nodded at the two young men “in charge” on Sunday nights at the soup kitchen and then pointed toward a crooked, framed certificate on the wall, “Those two boys got started here with him, Jeremy Benton, back in 2007… Yep, he was a real neat guy – consistent.” Don paused and looked at me under sagging eyelids, letting the silence add weight to his next sentence, “He got himself a good job and went off and bought a corvette.”

He was still looking at me, both of us standing there admiring the crooked certificate hanging just above the stainless steel industrial sink, “Guess he wanted to see how fast it could go… it, uh, it didn’t end well.”

Don washes the dishes every sunday for the program that feeds anywhere from 30-80 people in our community every night in the basement of a downtown church. When I first got there, Don was methodically preparing for the night – quietly setting out trays and arranging his washing area just so. When I was assigned the “reheat meat and make sandwiches task” at a counter not far from his work area, I knew we’d be friends before the night was over.

He’s the kind of man whose face begs you to ask his story.

“I wear these nylon pants because they dry real fast,” he told me just loud enough to make sense over the appalachian banjo playing on the stereo. Everything served a specific purpose for Don.

He hadn’t always been a dishwasher for the soup kitchen on Sundays, but he wasn’t the type to establish credibility or elevate his status on the scales so many use. He asked questions to the rhythm of his dishes and wondered how I got to Ames. As it turned out, he had a roommate from Honduras while he was in graduate school at Iowa State for civil engineering.

“Guess I didn’t learn it the first time around… had to hear it again,” he said with the surest twinkle in his sage eyes.
He would wash and dry and sort and then pause for conversation – all calculated.

So, when he wandered over to the crooked certificate hanging above the stainless steel industrial sink, I wondered why he chose that story for that moment. Why did he say “corvette” the way he did and why did his eyes say the story wasn’t so simple and how did Don manage to honor a memory and mourn folly at the same time?


Just another night lived…This is another in a series of posts called Occupy Life. Each day you and I occupy physical time and space, making bold statements about what is most important in this life (whether we’re holding picket signs or not). Other entries: StonesSpanish at an Irish Pubpancake battertying ribbonsAlejandra,  Lunch HourDelaney and Roland or the original post Occupy Life: Things One Might Do While Unemployed.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

“everything’s crooked but it all seems straight, cuz everyone’s looking sideways…”

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