“Meet me at Third and Fairfax,” is the landmark sign in front of the Farmer’s Market. It’s a must-see on tourist maps, a great place for sampling ethnic food with a comfortable ambience to spend an afternoon. My office is three blocks east so I frequently meet colleagues for leisurely lunch and good conversation.
Charlotte Gusay and I sat under the elm tree between The Gumbo Pot and the Pizzeria food stalls. My seafood gumbo was spicy and welcome on the cool fall day. The garden salad was sprinkled with roasted pecans, accompanied with a corn muffin. Quite a hardy lunch. Charlotte nibbled on her toasted chicken salad.
We pushed aside our lunch trays and continued the conversation. A young man, mid-30s, clean shaven, casually dressed with a backpack slung over his shoulder approached us and inquired if he could have the remains of our lunch. “Absolutely, I responded.”
He picked up our trays and walked to a nearby table. “You can’t eat that food,” the security guard sternly told the man.
“I gave it to him,” retorted Charlotte, “we’re finished and he’s hungry.”
“It’s against the Farmer’s Market rules, this is private property. He’s “panhandling” and we don’t allow that.
“People are hungry,” I shouted at the guard as I jumped up from my seat. “He can eat at our table.”
“No,” as he called for another guard.
“Give me back my food and I’ll wrap it up for him,” I challenged.
Again, “No, it’s against the rules.”
By this time we were attracting attention from other customers. “Please give him my bottle of water,” said the elderly lady at the next table.
The young man was insulted, clearly he was not used to a public display of his situation. He attempted to defend his rights and ward off the humiliation. To no avail. The guards escorted him out of the Farmer’s Market. A gentleman at the next table followed them to the street hoping to provide assistance to the homeless fellow. He, too, was not allowed to buy lunch at the Farmer’s Market for the young stranger. He gave him five dollars to buy lunch somewhere else.
We were helpless as we watched the waitress remove food trays from the tables, all laden with enough leftovers to feed more than a dozen hungry people. I thought this is the season of giving.