His laugh was what killed me. He had thelaugh of the happiest old man ever - unless we were about to run out ofsoup. Stan had no teeth, but a smile that brightened the room. He wantedto help with everything and anything. One of his greatest possessionswas a watch he had bought for four dollars at Wal-Mart. I told him Ithought it was one of the greatest watches I’d ever seen. And itwas, because it was his.
Volunteering at a soup kitchen for twoweekends opened my eyes to what I take for granted. I met many with whomI am now on a first-name basis. The man who helps clean up, Idiscovered, doesn’t eat bread or drink anything except hisfavorite kind of juice. I learned that one man was kicked out of a localgift shop for using the bathroom. I learned a lady whodidn’t look over 20 had three children and wastrying her hardest to get a meal.
My hand was burning asI ladled out the soup. Stan was next to me setting out the trays. He hadthe job of counting those who came and would ask whether to mark aperson an adult or child when he wasn’t sure. He would tap me onthe shoulder, and say “That’s great soup,” or“You better get some for yourself before it’s allgone!” Stan never cared what he ate, but was excited when he got asandwich or some soup to take home.
My mother stood next to meserving hot dogs, and Stan would always sneak behind me to talk to her.He’d say, “This is one great kid. You shouldn’t feedher too much, though.” Then he’d laugh the happiest laugh Ihave ever heard and say, “I’m justkidding.”
Stan made me realize that life isn’t aboutmoney or possessions. He taught me life is what you give to others. Heworks in different soup kitchens each day and is happy with so little.Stan makes me wonder who I want to be. Stan laughs the happiest laughever. I wish I could laugh like him.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.