Hand Full of Charity

By coincidence, the five guys heading for Dixon’s met a few blocks away from the entrance. They paused at the red traffic light, greeted one another and began making their way across the street when John paused, looking out to where a strange man started to make camp a few feet from the cafeteria.“Who’s that?” he pointed to the scrawny, poorly dressed, gray-bearded man who squatted down on the sidewalk, then, pulled out a sign and placed it against the brick wall. It read: “No home, no job, no food.” They all paused, watching as a battered hat was placed beside the sign. Dimos dug deep into his pocket and pulled out a hand full of change – about seventy cents, in all. John, doing the same, found fifty cents and a few pennies. Kipreos had three quarters – tips from this morning’s customers at the hotel where he worked. George counted out sixty cents that he made ready to give the man who was eying them, anxiously as they approached. Each tossed their change into the waiting hat before entering Dixon’s where their regular table by the window awaited them. Yiannis, still outside, hesitated, searching his pockets, carefully, feeling every coin in order to identify the value of each coin.

Bypassing the quarter and dollar for his coffee he, finally felt a dime and grasped it, giving it a last ‘farewell’ as he prepared to hand it over to the ragged wretch of a man who, eyeing the dime looked up at him with sharp disapproval. Pointing to his sign, he told Yiannis, “This could be you one day, mister!” Yiannis’ brow wrinkled. “What do you mean?” “I mean you could one day find yourself in this predicament! No home, no job, no money.”  Yiannis looked down at his dime. What he said began to make sense. “You know? You’re right!” And, with that he placed the dime back in his pocket and entered Dixon’s , got his coffee and heading for the table to join his friends, being greeted with, ‘What’s up?”  

“I got some bad news yesterday. A cousin of mine died. He was single and his landlady found my address on an envelope.” John asked, “What’re you going to do?” Yiannis shrugged. “I don’t know. His only close family is in Marousanakislaki.”

Dimos asked, “did he leave property, money – anything?” “Everything was tossed out except a set of leather luggage. Oh, yeah! And a nice hat!” said Yiannis.

“Then”, John pointed out, “take out an ad in the National herald to give whoever knew him notice and sell the luggage if you don’t want them. You could make some money on them.” Yiannis thought and thought. “How much does it cost to place the ad?”

“Two dollars a word” remarked Dimos. “Two…” Yiannis nearly choked on his coffee.”

You’re showing a little respect, You’re informing those who knew him in church what’s happened. They’d like to know, Yiannis,” Kipreos reminded. “Yeah! Yeah! OK.” Hesitating, Yiannis began wording what the ad could say. “Ahhh…Markos Pappas left this earth Saturday leaving a set of luggage now for sale. Please call this number.” Leaning back in his chair, he asked, “how much?” Dimos calculated. “About thirty six dollars.” Choking, that price nearly took Yiannis’ life. “Thir…ahhh, no! Can’t do that. That’s almost my rent!”

“What about, ‘Markos Pappas died. Left luggage now for sale.” Pausing, John said, “That’ll be $16.00.” Yiannis shook his head so hard, his jowls shook. George, impatient, raised his voice, then, you tell us how the ad should read!” After a long silence, Yiannis set down his coffee, reached out for a donut and said, “I’ve decided to keep the luggage.” Kipreos nodded, “What about the hat?” Yiannis reflected, again. His face registered deep thought. Then, lifting his head, said with benevolence, that guy outside can have it. I’m sure Markos would have been pleased to know someone with nothing now has his hat.” “So!” Dimos said with annoyance. “Yiannis! You have to inform the public! Now! What’ll you write for the newspaper?” Reaching out for a second donut, Yiannis leaned back and with a touch of reverence and a long sigh, said, “You’re right! Just say, ‘Markos Pappas is dead!”


This article is part of a continuing series dealing with reports of Greek POWs in Asia Minor in the Thessaloniki newspaper, Makedonia in July 1936.

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