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After serving Thanksgiving leftovers for the third time, the remainder, which was a lot of good food, went down the garbage disposal. When we do that, I always think about the hungry and needy in the world who would be delighted to have that.
I'm reminded of another time when I was in school of a caring and sweet lady who was in charge of the school lunchroom. At least three times a week, she would cook up a batch of homemade rolls.
My classmates generally were divided into groups in those days - those whose parents could afford the 15 cents a day for lunch money and those whose parents couldn't. In fact, the social lines between students were drawn in just that fashion. The "pays" felt somewhat superior to "frees." The poorer children lived in substandard housing out on the ridges, who a lot of times didn't have shoes to wear, whose personal hygiene was suspect and whose appetites never waned.
You could tell where a "free" had sat in the lunchroom. His or her plate would be completely empty. Even the rice pudding would be gone. We also lined up in the adjoining classroom to go to lunch each day as "pays" and "frees." The pays were allowed to go first. We marched through the line and got our tray and our glasses of milk, while the "frees" had to stand outside and wait until we were served.
I'm not certain whose idea that was, but the segregation of the two groups did work in favor of the pays. We got the freshest and the hottest of the lunchroom lady's rolls. And since they put all the milk out at once, we got the glasses that were still cold.
When the "frees" walked through the line, only the dregs were normally left in the roll bin, and their milk was warm. Not yet old enough to understand the full impact poverty could have on a group of individuals, I passed off all this as my good fortune and the second group's bad luck.
The lunchroom lady, however, did take notice of the inconsistency of how her youthful customers were being served, and she also took notice of the fact that those who received free lunches seemed to be a much hungrier lot and therefore much more appreciative of her daily offerings.
The pays continued to go first through the lunchroom line, but the lunchroom lady, bless her heart, held back some of the bigger, softer rolls for those poor souls waiting in arrears. She also instituted a policy whereby each student drew his own milk from the dispenser so every student would have a glass of milk that was fresh and cold.
We pays grumbled a bit over the fact that we no longer got the pick of the lunchroom lady's rolls, but the frees took it as a personal favor.
One day, one of the "frees" came to school accompanied by his father, a sawmill hand who came to see the roll lady.
"I got four other young 'uns at home, ma'am," the man said to the lunchroom lady. "If it would be all right, could my boy here bring his rolls home one day so they could have some?"
The man left with a brown paper bag filled with the lunchroom lady's rolls that day, and I think I noticed her eyes were red when she served my plate at lunch time.