He never planned it this way.
He’d served his country four years and three tours and had expected a little more in return. But it’s a windy winter morning and if he’s gonna get anything remotely fresh today, he needs to arrive early. Dozens like him will be traveling in cars but he lost his a couple winters back to a “payday” loan joint in exchange for a month of keeping his heat on. He laughs at the irony. He hasn’t had an actual payday in over 20 years. At 81 now, he moves more slowly. Partly due to the cold. Partly to the wage of aging. Slipping on the tattered gloves and coat he’d received last year at the passing of his older friend, he heads out the door into the biting wind for the long walk he makes twice weekly. He gets $20 in coupons to the farmer’s market from the charity down the street. It’s his only shot at a bag of fresh produce to complement the $16 in food stamps and the assortment of cans of whatever the church food pantry has on the shelves that day. Over time he’s learned there’s a better than even chance for hamburger on Tuesdays. When I first met John, I was naïve to his plight and asked if it was difficult being old. “No, it’s difficult being hungry.” For an entire generation of people just like him who’d once dreamed of a retirement of travel or at the very least, a front porch, this is normal. It’s how they wake up and what they take to bed at night. This is the entirety of every lonely day. The fortunate ones like John, still muster an occasional smile through it all and reminisce about their blessed lives if you give them an audience.