Community Refrigerator

There’s this refrigerator out on the street

            between the coffee shop

            and the ice cream shop.

The idea is for people to put what they can into the refrigerator

            and for people to take what they need

                        from the refrigerator.

Honor system.

Nobody checks to see if you actually need some of what’s

            in that refrigerator.


We went to put some stuff into that refrigerator.

Was an old-ish guy rummaging through that refrigerator.

Nicely dressed.

Nicely groomed.

Pulled out a couple of big plastic bags

            and pretty nearly emptied out the refrigerator.

Maybe he really needed food

            and couldn’t  get to the refrigerator very often.

Maybe he was collecting food for other people

            who really needed the food.

But he wasn’t leaving much behind

            for others who might need some of what

                        was in that refrigerator.

A bit insensitive.


We stopped at the ice cream shop

            after we put our contribution into the refrigerator.


As we were leaving

            a person came up to the refrigerator

            who looked like what you’d imagine

            that a stereotype of a bag lady

            would look like.

Lots of bags, of course.

Very bent-over-looking-at-the-ground posture.

Unkempt grey hair.

Mismatched clothes of an uncertain vintage.

Too warm coat for the pretty warm day.

Looked like someone who could really use

            some of what was in that refrigerator.

But she opened a couple of her many bags

            and put at least as much stuff as we did

                        into that refrigerator.

Then she turned around and shuffled off.


Never can tell.

Life is full of surprises.

Could be that I was stereotyping someone

            who wasn’t what I imagined she was.

Could be that those that need the most

            are the most generous.


Bill Jarosz