Working In A Soup Kitchen Can Mean Finding A New Friend

The best part of Thanksgiving is the food, everyone knows that. But what I have always took for granted is the company I keep on that day. Some people don’t have that in their life, and The Rescue Mission does a beautiful thing for those who are lonely or incapable of having Thanksgiving on their own. Meals on Wheels has been bringing Thanksgiving dinners to those in need since 1940, and I am thankful that I have become involved in this program.

Every year for Thanksgiving I volunteer at the Syracuse Rescue Mission. As an only child, I always found it to be a hassle. I’m extremely selfish, and really need my sleep. Until recently, I found myself enjoying it immensely, and I have Arthur Malup to thank for that.

Arthur lives alone on Wescott Street in an ugly green house with fading paint and a deep trench dug into the side of his house. He says that this helps the rain run into the street better, but I just assumed he liked making mud pies. Every year I always delivered to the same people, but this year Arthur came up on my list and I was curious to see what he was all about. Usually my father and I do the deliveries together, but this year I went on my own while my family cooked our Thanksgiving dinner.

As I stood on the doorstep waiting to go in, Arthur peeked his head out of the small, dingy window and stared with a suspicious look in his eyes. When he opened the door, he asked if I was selling something. I did my best not to giggle at his small stature, beady eyes, and great head of orange hair. When I explained I was here to deliver his Thanksgiving meal, he quickly changed from suspicion to delight, and invited me in with a swift kick to the door and a tug at the duct tape holding his lock in place. Arthur is about five feet tall, and has a lot more energy than I do at seven in the morning. He asked me if I had time for some tea, and while I was slightly behind on my deliveries, I decided to take the opportunity to meet an interesting character.

While looking around, I noticed all the stacks of newspapers and trophies around his home. The fireplace even contained a stack of brown newspapers, which seemed like a fire hazard, but I didn’t want to alarm him with my safety checks. Arthur bounded into the living room, he noticed I was glancing about, and began to explain his slight hoarding problem with newspapers. His wife, who passed away three years ago, and him were collectors of famous editions of papers. Any tragedy, big event, or even small events, he had the newspaper. He told me I couldn’t touch anything though because he feared my fingers were greasy and would affect the newspapers quality. I asked him how he won the trophies, and he told me he didn’t win any of them. He saw my look of surprise and elaborated further telling me he collects them because they look nice when the sun catches them from the window.

As I drank my cup of tea from a Styrofoam cup, I asked him about his wife. Julie Ann was her name. Her picture was hidden everywhere behind folded edges of paper, and the occasional bottle containing some liquor that I’m sure he hadn’t remembered was still located there.

“She was the most beautiful woman on the entire earth, and every day with her was the best day of my life. When she died she took a piece of me that I don’t want back. She took my heart, and she deserves that,” said Arthur.

Arthur’s cat Tony, an obese mess of an animal, occasionally would rub his large belly against my leg, leaving behind tufts of grey fur that I desperately wanted to remove from my pants. This large animal was given to him by a man named Lumpy, who was his best friend and partner in crime from the first day they met one another. Lumpy passed away this year and Arthur feels that Lumpy’s spirit resides within Tony, so he sees nothing wrong with conversing with the animal from time to time.

“When Tony walks into the room, I know he has some type of mischief for us to get into for the day. It usually just means we will watch a lot of television and make prank phone calls to my neighbor Greg, he’s an (expletive).”

His reference to Greg, the (expletive), is because Greg has been raking his leaves into Arthur’s trench for the past 10 years, and Arthur has had it with him. Arthur dug his trench so that the rain water could run down it, into the street, without it creating massive puddles on his driveway.

“The man is a jerk. I’m doing this so that the puddles don’t get in his grass and create a mud mess that he cannot get rid of. Once you get a big area of mud on your lawn, you can forget about having nice grass in the summer, that’s for damn sure.”

Arthur prides himself on his lawn. Although his home is surely a mess, his lawn is his pride and joy. The paint on his home may be old and chipping, but his lawn is immaculate, even with all the snow currently on the ground, you can tell a nice lawn when you see one. After Arthur’s wife died, he wanted to keep the lawn looking nice.

“I know she is sitting up there shaking her head at the state of the paint on the house, and at the fact that I rarely do dishes anymore. But she loved taking care of the lawn, it was our weekend project. We would spend hours outside doing garden work, placing grass feed everywhere it started to look dull. It was my favorite thing for us to do. And I know Julie loved it as well, we had so much fun together.”

Arthur’s loneliness is very obvious. The two most important people in his life have died recently, and so I took it upon myself to offer my horrible lawn care services to him over the summer time. After I said it, I immediately regretted it. Arthur instantly hopped up and reached for the dusty drawer handle, pulling out a shopping list, and a two-page piece of paper detailing every yard care secret in the world. He asked me to study this before I return from school in the spring, to bring two pairs of work gloves, and if I have one, a lawn mower.

I couldn’t help but laugh.

As I tell Arthur I have to deliver meals to other people, he asks me to come back and visit him over the winter, just so he can have someone to chat with. I let him know I would love to come back and spend time with him as soon as I return for my Christmas break. While walking out the door, Arthur took my hand a placed a dry, cracked lipped kiss on my wrist. Arthur told me I had made his holiday, and he would be patiently waiting for my arrival over Christmas.

I found out three days after Thanksgiving, from his daughter Lisa, that Arthur was removed from his home and placed into an old folk’s home in downtown Syracuse. She told me that I was the one person she was to call to inform of his recent placement in the home. I plan on visiting Arthur the second I return home, and helping him take care of all the plants he has in his room.