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Any Sandwich Will Help MAG
“Can I get thirty six-inch sandwiches? All with turkey, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes. And thirty water bottles as well?”
The Subway employee squints in disbelief at me – a 16-year-old boy buying $90 worth of sandwiches. He gives me a short, silent stare in a “let's be real” moment. I take out my wallet and say, “I'm legit!” Once ready and paid for, all 30 sandwiches get packed into my big mountain-climbing backpack, and I set off on my journey. Not to the Alps, but to Fifth Avenue.
Many homeless people have alcohol or drug addictions. Last year at Christmas time, as I was walking home from school, I noticed a homeless man covered in a blanket. I had seen him sitting in that same spot next to the drugstore for a long time. Feeling sympathetic and wanting to offer him a Christmas gift, I tossed a $20 bill into his cup, which contained only change. The next day, I saw two packs of Marlboro Reds in his lap.
I still wanted to help the homeless, but not by financing their addictions. Food, water, and shelter are the three key necessities. Since I do not have the capability to buy a condo and give them shelter, food and water are my two options – which brings me to my current mission.
Fifth Avenue, 7 p.m. People are rushing through the crowded streets as I slowly walk with my heavy backpack. My eyes are darting back and forth, trying to spot a homeless man on the sidewalk. Thirty meters ahead, I see a man across the street sitting on the ground in old clothes with a sign reading, “Every Penny Helps.”
I cross the street.
“I got you some food,” I say shyly.
“That's great. Thanks, man,” the thirty-something man responds in a raspy voice. I open my bag and take out a sandwich and a bottle of water, along with snacks from my house.
“Do you do this often?” he asks.
“It's my third time,” I reply as I hand him the sandwich. “How long have you been out here?”
“Twelve years,” he replies. My brows rise. I did not even know my ABC's twelve years ago.
“Would you happen to have a cigarette by any chance?” he murmurs.
“I don't smoke, but have a good one,” I say as I zip my bag and head off. The packs of Marlboro Reds bought by the guy on the corner come to mind. If I had given this man money, he too might have chosen to fill his body with nicotine rather than food.
Two hours and 40 blocks later, my bag is almost empty. I am wearing a short-sleeved shirt, and I start getting goosebumps from the chilly breeze. Soon I will be home and warm, but the homeless don't have that luxury. With the winter soon to come, blankets and clothes will be on the necessity list, along with sandwiches and water. Yet right now, I continue my journey with two sandwiches left. At the end of the block, I notice a man huddled up on the sidewalk holding a cardboard sign that reads, “Any Dollar Will Help.” To me, it says “Any Sandwich Will Help.”