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Introducing Angels Unaware
*Two years ago, I stopped watching the news. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The constant diet of ‘bad news’ was toxic, and was making me cynical, angry, and emotionally fatigued. Pulling the plug on cable news was a good start. But I found that I also needed ‘good news.’ So in addition to looking for stories of acts of kindness and charity, I have been trying to pay more attention to the things happening in my own life as a means of resisting the magnetism of pessimism. To that end, I hope to make Angels Unaware a regular (weekly!) part of Poiema. We hope to highlight acts of kindness by common men and women in order to be reminded, despite the doomsday pundits on the tube, that there is still good in this world.
I am a grown man, nearly forty, with tattoos, callouses, and battle scars from knives and mean dogs and even meaner women. So I am as surprised as anyone to tell you that I just “ugly cried” in the grocery store right there in front of God and everybody.
I was standing in line at the meat counter to see if the butcher had any smoked ham shanks for a pot of greens. There were a couple of Mexican kids in front of me. 14 or 15 years old. Skinny as a pair of No. 2 pencils. Ratty clothes held together by dirt and the grace of God.
They were digging in their pockets, unwadding what little paper money they had, and pooling together their change. “Half pound beef, gracias,” the taller one said.
Hank, the butcher, disappeared behind the plastic curtain behind him. After a minute or two, he emerged, pushing a cart stacked with what looked like an entire cow, all carved up and wrapped in white paper and brown tape. Then he loaded the boys’ arms with enough beef to sink the U.S.S Intrepid.
The boys’ eyes got as big as a Texan’s lies. “We cannot buy,” one said, holding out a couple bucks and barely enough change to cover a dead man’s eyes.
“It’s free,” said Hank. “Expiration date’s today. I was going to have to throw it out. Nothin’ wrong with it though. If you put it in the freezer it’ll last y’all a long time.”
“Gracias!” said one of the Mexican kids. The other boy just smiled so big it looked like he had discovered he had teeth for the first time. Hank smiled and winked at me. I had to go hide in between the Dr. Thunders and cheese doodles until I got myself together enough to order the damn ham shank.