74: Ziggy

74: Ziggy

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

Ziggy

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

~Plato

Times were tough in our household. My husband was out of work and there was no sign of anything promising for him. Our son had been in a diving accident and was recuperating at home after two surgeries. In addition to going to nursing school full time, I was working three part-time jobs just to put food on the table for our family of five.

After a rather meager meal one night, I answered the ringing phone. With no introduction, a quiet, deep voice asked, “Do you need food? Come to my place and I can help you.” Directions followed and he clicked off. No in-depth conversation or queries as to our financial situation. It was up to us to decide whether or not we trusted a voice on the telephone.

I was desperate. With barely any food in the cabinet and no prospect of a job for my husband, I knew I had to take a chance, swallow my pride, and accept the bizarre offer. Was there a catch? Were we the victims of a scam?

It wasn’t an easy task to get to our benefactor’s home. Miles of wooded, winding roads led to more wooded, winding roads. Someone must have played a cruel joke on us. Just as I had made up my mind to turn around, gritting my teeth over the waste of precious gas used on this wild goose chase, a mailbox appeared in the headlights.

The simple white, raised ranch home was easy to miss. Set on a knoll, a bank of trees hid the front of the house, but the blazing lights from the open garage beckoned me. There was no car in the garage. Instead, lined up in orderly rows were tables filled with canned food, bags of bread, packages of diapers, laundry detergent, everything needed to maintain a home.

A craggy, nondescript gentleman greeted me with a minimum of verbiage. Not much different than our phone conversation! “Look around. If you see what you want, help yourself.” He handed me paper bags and turned away to another bewildered new arrival, passing along the same message. This couldn’t be real!

I guiltily filled the paper sacks with what we absolutely needed and gratefully thanked the elderly man. “Be here next week. You’ll run out by then,” was his reply.

My head was spinning. I had three bags of groceries given to me FREE by someone I had never met before, and he had told me to return for more. Who in his right mind did such a thing? Well, it seems that this Angel of Mercy, Ziggy, did. Widowed and retired, he wanted to do something worthwhile in his golden years to fill his time. Daily, he drove his pickup truck and begged for usable items and canned goods from local grocery stores. He delivered most of the booty to the shelters and food banks. He stocked the leftovers in his garage and sought out folks like us who had fallen on hard times.

I never knew what our weekly menus would be until the boys and I had “shopped” in Ziggy’s garage. We ate canned ham, stew, oatmeal, or corn ninety-nine different ways, feasting like royalty. With our bellies full, we could focus on paying necessary bills with what little money we had. A major stress had been lifted that winter while my husband looked for a job.

Once in a while I stop in front of that house where Ziggy used to live. The garage is gone, but I can still hear that little man saying, “Look around... help yourself.” Yes, Ziggy, I did look around. I saw a gentle spirit who gave what he could to a young mother and her family that needed a boost. Then I helped myself to what I wanted: a renewed belief in the kindness of strangers and gratitude for hope which had been dimmed. You fed our bodies and our souls, and the world is a richer place because of you.

~Irene Budzynski, RN

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