A Clown And A Grill


“Norma has asked for volunteers for Sunday”, my wife told me over Friday dinner. Norma is the head of Be The Change.

“I think it’s another picnic for residents of a homeless shelter in Long Branch, NJ”.

Frankly I did not know there were any homeless shelters in Long Branch, which I believed to be an affluent beach community. So Sunday saw us driving down route 36 towards Long Branch. “I guess we are now on the wrong side of the tracks”, I said facetiously as we crossed a set of train tracks and came upon a sign that said, “Welcome to Ronald McDonald House”

“Is this the place?”

“Looks like it is, 31 Bath Avenue”  replies my wife.

It turns out we were volunteers for a special lunch for residents of Ronald McDonald House. Paradoxically the number of volunteers equalled the number of residents but at the same time we were short of skilled help. So instead of taking portraits as I assumed I would be doing, I manned the grill along with my son. As we were putting our 200th hot dog on the grill, my son suddenly cringes and whispers, Ronald McDonald is coming over. Indeed he was. Now, my son hates the very concept of McDonalds. He ate there when he was very young, I think 5 or so, and he got really sick. This prompted him to research the concept of fast food. He was very advanced for his age. He did not like what he found out about McDonald’s and the fast food industry. To this day he will not eat a hot dog of any kind.  Personally, I loved going to McDonald’s as a kid, but I get the feeling the food and the process were very different back then. Of course I have no evidence for this just a “gut” feeling.

“Thank you all for coming out and helping” says Ronald as he shakes my hand and my son’s, as well as the hands of the other volunteers cooking hot dogs and hamburgers. As he walks away my son whispers, “I hated that.”

I thought this was a good time for a real life lesson. Son, I said, not everything nor everyone is purely bad or good. They are mostly a combination of the two. I point out that Ronald McDonald House helps a lot of people. So he may think Ronald is bad for the way he pushes fast food but on the other hand McDonalds Corp. is also trying to help communities.

Not a single photograph was taken on Sunday by me. Still, it was a good day.




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