Introduction and Description
As I stood at the corner of Fifth and Smithfield Street in Downtown Pittsburgh recently, waiting to catch a bus, an elderly woman approached me and began mumbling something inaudibly and incoherently. Her tiny, gaunt body was a stark contrast to the towering buildings that surrounded her; the sounds and speed of traffic direct contradictions of her silence and stillness. I looked at her wizened face and then into her vacant eyes, which were deprived of vigor and hope by age and poverty. Unable to turn away, intrigued by her frailty and desperate stare, I leaned closer and encouraged her to speak again. As she spoke, I struggled to hear her but was finally, with much strain, able to apprehend her request: "Can you please buy me a hamburger and french fries?"
I immediately granted her request and walked into McDonald's to place the order. As I stood in line, tears rolled down my cheeks as I contemplated the cruelty that exists in the world.
Bitter ironies and paradoxes danced wildly in my head; poverty in the midst of opulence, young, gluttonous pigs, slowly killing themselves by eating excessively, casually strolling past their emaciated elders, and people silenced and oppressed by the dictates of democracy sickened me ad nauseum, turning the normally pleasant aroma of grease-laden food into a deathly miasma. I fought my urge to vomit and won, repressing my disgust long enough to place the order. I then returned to the woman, food in hand, hoping that my act of altruism would blind her to the horrors of the world, the battles that she faced, battles that, most certainly, she could not win. She looked at me intently, her vacant eyes at once coming to life, imbued with a brio I had hitherto not seen.