A Happy Meal?


Several months ago, I took my daughter to Mcdonald’s after a doctor’s visit. (Probably NOT the healthiest option, but it made her smile after getting some routine bloodwork.) It’s not called a Happy Meal for nothing.

She unpacked her happy meal, chicken nuggets, fries, and a cheeseburger with no pickles.

Using the fries as teeth, she pretended to be a vampire. I snapped a picture for posterity, (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter) and laughed at my silly little girl. Sofy giggled and all the fries fell out.

“Now you do it, Mommy.”

Suddenly, there was a loud grunting and whining from across the room; someone was pounding on one of the tables.

Everyone turned to stare at a tall hairy boy, maybe six foot, late twenties, at least 250 pounds. His tattered white t-shirt was a size too small; his shorts fell slightly askew below his waist. He wore heavy looking, black laced up shoes, like those you might put on a child whose feet turn inward. His dark black hair was as untamable as his spirit.

He was a giant compared to the woman next to him who tried ineffectively to appease him.

Her brown hair, pulled back in a short ponytail, was highlighted by whites and greys. Her skin was the reddish brown of someone who might toil under the sun all day, like farmers, construction workers, or beggars. She reached out and placed her callused hands on his, shushing him. The dirt under her fingernails contrasted sharply against the boy’s pale white skin.

Her eyes looked up at him, but past him as well, pleading for the boy to calm down.

His squinty eyes looked confused, and he gnawed at his balled up fists as he continued to moan in in-compliance.

People were staring, including Sofy, who seemed frightened by his loud outbursts. His pounding rattled the chairs around his table.

“It’s not polite to stare,” I reminded her and reached out for her little hands.

“Mommy, what’s wrong with him?”

I explained that some kids are just born different: speech impediments, physical abnormalities, mental handicaps, and so on.

“It’s very sad and nobody’s fault. And it’s not nice to stare at or make fun of someone because they are different.”

The boy grew more upset until an old man, his father, finally came over with a tray of food. The man took off his dirty Yankee’s cap and brushed his hand through his thinning, and also greying, hair. He had the same burnt skin as his wife. He needed a haircut and a shave. His jeans were dirty and torn at the heels from dragging. His belt had grown too big for his waist, and you could see where he had added extra holes and cut off the excess.

He was a third of the size of the boy, but he calmly motioned the boy to take a seat. After some quiet negotiating, the boy listened and sat next to his teary eyed mother. He and his mother shared a 10 piece nuggets meal, a burger and fries. The father had asked for a cup for water; he went to the soda machine and got some fruit punch for himself. That was all.

Perhaps he had already eaten?

I felt so blessed to have not one, but three, happy and healthy children. I couldn’t begin to imagine the struggles they were going through, physically, emotionally, and monetarily.

We picked up and headed for the door. As I reached the door, I looked back for one last look at the depressing situation that I was leaving behind, that which they couldn’t.

The old man looked up at that moment, and I realized I had seen that face before.

**********

A few days before, I was waiting at a traffic light when I noticed a beggar walking down my lane. He held up a cardboard handwritten sign.

“I HAVE AN AUTISTIC SON. I CAN’T FIND WORK. HE NEEDS FOOD AND SPECIAL CARE. PLEASE HELP.
GOD BLESS.”

I was so angry. How could this lazy man pretend to have a sick child in order to get pity and charity from other hardworking people.

He’s probably gonna get drunk, or buy drugs.

Needless to say, I didn’t open the window. Although I’m always inclined to give money to the homeless, I thought I was going to teach him a lesson.

**********

I never thought I would run into him and his Autistic son at that McDonald’s, and see first hand the circumstances he so poignantly described on cardboard.

Now, whenever I see him, I always ask about his son. I give him what I can.

I don’t know how he got there or why, but I’m not supposed to. I’m no one to judge or determine worthiness…

What we receive is not ours to keep and hoard, it is His for us to give.

Ecclesiastes 6:12 NIV
For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone?

Proverbs 11:24-25, 28 NIV
[24] One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
[25] A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
[28] Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.

Proverbs 3:27-28 NIV
[27] Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. [28] Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—when you already have it with you.

**********

This post is in no way intended to indicate that Autism is necessarily a sickness or a weakness, or that people with Autism can’t function normally, and live happy lives.

The boy in the post had other problems and limitations which weren’t caused by the Autism.

This is a portrayal of events that actually took place from my point of view, and I have no expert knowledge about Autism.

In no way is this post intended to offend anyone with Autism, nor anyone with relatives who have autism.

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