By Mark David Blum, Esq.
In random chatter with someone the other day, I was reminded of a story about red snapper soup. The take away, in hindsight, I think is about what we really impose upon people who turn to us for help. There are some amongst us who salve their wounds with blind charity but are callous, unfeeling, and really donít understand with what they are dealing. I hope this brief tale of red snapper soup makes the point and folks think before they act.
There was a time in the not too distant past when due to bad decisions, bad actions, bad luck, and bad hearts, my family hit rock bottom. Broke, homeless, and with absolutely nothing to our name. I was unemployed or underemployed and the missus was similarly situated. We had a kid in tow.
Things were so bad we were sleeping on the floor, had no furniture, and lived thanks in great part, to the kindness and charity of others. The kid never felt the pain as it was well hidden and she didnít want for basic needs and her situational understanding was thankfully limited by age.
At times, there was just too much week left at the end of the money. We became pros at spaghetti, hamburgers, and all those basic staples that you eat when you count your pennies. Even with our most responsible and best efforts, we still were at times short on food and long on a child needing to eat.
Begging for food is something I couldnít do it because I still had too much pride. My missus however, found the strength and made the trek and effort to a local church food pantry and humbled herself as she would be escorted through their selection and would come home with a bag or two of groceries donated by the good people who support the church. When she would come home, I would have to hold her tight and let the tears flow.
Once, I was unpacking the bag and I came upon a can from what I think is a well known brand of soup. It was called ĎRed Snapper Soupí. Shrugging, I put it up in the cabinet leaving it for another day. I remember asking, ďwhat is red snapper soup?Ē Neither of us could figure it out. Our reasoning led us to assume it was just some kind of weird fish soup. We had gotten a lot of weird foods from this pantry so a can of red fish soup was just another something that would be an interesting meal.
How could this not be fish soup? There is New England and Manhattan styles of clam chowder. So this red snapper soup had to be some weird type of concoction that was a regional flavor we had never experienced. Never saying I have eaten everything there is, the real only logical conclusion was that this was red sauce based fish soup.
Oh my dear, I could not have been more wrong.
There finally came the day and despite our best efforts to the contrary, we were down to Red Snapper soup for dinner. I reached in and took down the can. Searched around and found the can opener, and pulled back the lid.
Thatís when the smell knocked me on my ass. It was the rush of an overwhelming aroma of vintage raw sewage mixed steamed roadkill which had been marinating in everything that came out of that little girl in the Exorcist. My eyes watered, my skin melted, and all the paint ran off the walls. This smell was so foul that words fail me.
But it was just supposed to be fish soup, right?
Wrong. I learned that day that Red Snapper soup is actually red Snapper soup; not as in the big sluggish fish but as in snapper turtle. Yep, turtle soup. Gross, disgusting, putrid, red, foul, snapper turtle soup. Straight into the garbage went the can and I donít think we ate that night.
Now, as I tell this story, I cannot help but flash to all the loudmouths who bang the drums to cut back on services to the poor. It always angers me that people just donít understand how despite any of your best efforts, sometimes you stumble and fail. Getting back on your feet is hard work.
It is so very humiliating to have beg for food. I couldnít bring myself to do it. My missus has a stronger character than do I. If only people would think before they summarily toss off their unwanteds onto the backs of the poor. Before you throw your underwear into a Rescue Mission bin or put your Red Snapper soup in a big box at the Carrier Dome, remember that on the other side of that can is a real human being.
Though it sounds piggish and I am not ungrateful and have tried to repay those favors many times over, keep the Red Snapper soup. A can of simple tomato soup would be enough.
Been there, done that, and hopefully never to go back; amen.