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Lunch with Joyce This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Today I was at the mall waiting for friends, when a lady wearing a knit hat and a sweater came up to me and, shivering, said, “I’m homeless. Would you mind buying me some food?”

In that split second, everything I’d learned since kindergarten flashed through my mind. Don’t talk to strangers … Be a good citizen … People will take ­advantage of you … Treat others as you wish to be treated … The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return … I guess love won the debate. “Sure,” I said. “What would you like?”

She thought and then said, “I’d like to get Chinese food.” We headed upstairs. On the way she told me about when she was a teenager. She remembers taking pictures for the yearbook with her best friend. She was in the band and played basketball. She got good grades and was a good student.

She ordered soup, an egg roll, white rice, and pepper chicken. I would normally think that was a lot, but she had probably barely eaten in the last few days. I got my usual – lo mein and General Tso’s chicken.

As we ate, we got to know each other. She asked if I played any instruments. I replied that I played the violin, cello, and guitar. She told me she played the flute, piano, guitar, and violin. In the middle of our meal, I realized something. And she thought of it at exactly the same time.

“So, what’s your name?” she asked.

“I’m Claire,” I said, startled at our exact same thought. “What’s yours?”

“Joyce,” she said with a smile.

We continued talking, and she asked my favorite subjects in school and if I wanted to go to college. “Hopefully,” I replied. “I’m interested in nursing.”

“I went to college for nursing,” she said.

I was taken aback. How could we have so much in common? Was she pretending so I’d feel sympathy for her? But her eyes were genuine as she said this.

Meanwhile I was eating my lo mein, picking around the cabbage and the other vegetables. Joyce said, “If you don’t like it you can take it back.” I told her that I liked it, but was not fond of the vegetables. She broke into a big grin. “You don’t like vegetables, huh? Neither did I. But now I do.” I immediately felt guilty. How could I be picking at my food across from someone who barely gets to eat at all?

I tried my best to finish, but she seemed to sense my guilt and said, “You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want it.” How could she know what I was feeling? I told her the dish was my favorite, but I just eat slowly.

She replied, “I used to like lo mein, but pepper chicken was my dad’s favorite, so I get that now.” Noticing that she used the word “was,” I assumed her dad had passed away. I found it sweet that she gave up her favorite in order to honor her dad.

She asked why I was at the mall.

“I’m waiting for friends. We’re going to see ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,’” I replied, stumbling over the words a bit.

“‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,’” she echoed in awe. “What’s that about?” I realized that she didn’t see commercials for movies.

I explained the basic plot and she chuckled. “A man who is born 80 years old and ages backwards! That sounds interesting.”

She got up to get a to-go box. “Would you like one?” she asked, but I refused. I realized that this food would probably last her for a few days, and I was glad she had ordered a lot.

“Would you like these?” I asked, gesturing at the food I had left untouched. “Oh, no, thank you,” she said. “This is enough.” I got up to throw my tray away, feeling guilty about wasting so much.

“I need to meet my friends now,” I explained. “It was so nice to meet you, Joyce.”

“You too, Claire,” she replied with a smile. “Thank you.”

I headed to the theater, and she went back downstairs. It sounds like a perfect coincidence, but I can’t help but think that some force compelled us to meet. I kept puzzling, Why is Joyce homeless? It seems so unfair. She shouldn’t need people to buy her dinner. She was a nurse. She got good grades. She took pictures for her yearbook. She was the person I hope to be in the future. What went wrong? How could such a good life be rewarded with horrible luck?

I feel lucky to have run into Joyce. She changed my outlook. She is still a wonderful person, despite what the world has done to her. I wish her the best, and can only hope that the force that brought us together will help her find what she deserves in life.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 45 comments. Post your own now!

writingchick This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 3, 2010 at 7:39 pm
This was a sweet fun and very interesting story. I like it :)
OneGodForever32This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 30, 2010 at 6:51 pm
Wow! This is really touching, and I will be wondering for several days what in the world happened to Joyce :) I do believe in fate, and think its very cool that you recognized it as well!
Patience97 said...
May 29, 2010 at 3:41 pm

You had me wondering what happen to Joyce the entire time. I am still wondering...

But wow... It does seem so odd that someone who had good grades and went to medical school would end up like this.

You are so nice and sweet and kind to take this lady under your wing and pay for a meal for her. Just knowing that their are people out there willing to do this is very reassuring...

Good job with your article... Well done.

"People will never remember exactly what you... (more »)

AprilBlue said...
Apr. 24, 2010 at 8:19 pm
Amazing job, extremely touching
meme98 said...
Mar. 1, 2010 at 2:53 pm
this story was very instersting i really liked it
tippytoetapper This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 4, 2010 at 1:48 pm
For the people who are rating this article, it would be great if you could accompany your rating with a comment to show why you rated it that way. I've been getting a few low ratings lately, which is fine with me, but I'd like to see why people rate the article as such.
tjueqtjke replied...
Feb. 4, 2010 at 8:38 pm
It wasss ok
tippytoetapper This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 4, 2010 at 9:08 pm
haha they kind of screwed up some of the meaning when they edited it, and took out a lot of the personal writing style that I have. I think it would have done better if they didn't dumb it down to a 1st grade reading level haha
rough replied...
Feb. 4, 2010 at 9:10 pm
True True, good luck.
tippytoetapper This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 4, 2010 at 9:13 pm
thanks! haha i'm not much of a writer, i just submitted this because my friend told me to.
bobby replied...
Feb. 5, 2010 at 9:08 am
well am glad they did! it was good.
kixen replied...
Feb. 5, 2010 at 9:22 am
baby words
tippytoetapper This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 5, 2010 at 11:39 pm
what do you mean?
amaranth178 replied...
Aug. 9, 2010 at 2:04 pm
I didn't realize they changed this article before publishing it, but whatever happened, it is an excellent piece in terms of the emotion and the story behind it. Good job :)
CaseyLeigh This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 8, 2009 at 1:49 pm
An amazing, inspiring article.
tippytoetapper This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 1, 2009 at 7:37 pm
Thank you so much for all your positive comments.
It really happened, and I was just writing what I experienced.
And I'm sure something amazing will happen to you at one point or another ;)
Samantha said...
Jun. 1, 2009 at 12:18 am
Thats a really awesome piece of writing! I love it!
Inkspired said...
May 31, 2009 at 11:59 pm
OMG!! This really happened? I love this piece, it's so heartfelt and true, there's so many stupid things in this world I just want to scream because I feel so helpless! Great job!
totalbookworm96 said...
May 31, 2009 at 3:15 pm
that was really good! I liked it a lot
Abigail_W said...
May 31, 2009 at 2:58 pm
I love pieces like these! I wish I could write something with that meaning, but I don't think anything that special has ever happened to me.
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