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Sometimes you want to cook,
              sometimes you want to eat.
        No matter which, it's always best to be in service.

I have an odd sense of memory. It’s amorphous, defying shape. In some places, it’s smooth and unremarkable. In others, it’s jagged and dangerous in ways I don’t see until I’ve run my fingers over it, accidentally drawing blood. Then, when I bleed, I reflexively lick my wound, tasting the memory that lives in my body’s wine.

One of my sharpest memories from childhood is of being on a playground. I’m crouched on an elevated stand, perched high atop a metal slide. From my vantage point, I can see the entire schoolyard without being seen. I look down. On the merry-go-round a few yards from where the slide ends is a group of three kids. They’re complaining because they don’t have anyone to make their ride spin. I hear this and a plan takes shape. Before I even know what I’m doing, I’m off--I shoot down the slide, hitting the ground with my feet afire. When I get to the merry-go-round, I push it furiously. Quickly, I have it swirling faster and faster as the children shriek with delight. Just when I reach Mach 1, I let go of the bar I’ve been clutching, defying gravity I whip back up the slide and collapse into a pile behind the walls of the elevated stand. My chest is heaving as I hear my playmates’ laughter. One of them says aloud, "Who was that kid? Where did he go?" As their joy subsides, mine begins.

I feed myself.

I have waited tables on and off for many years. One Saturday night a few years ago, I was working in a fine-dining restaurant, serving a couple of men who seemed a little out of place. They were just looking for a good meal, they explained. In an attempt to figure out what they might like to eat, I asked where they were from. One of them ignored the question, while the other one’s eyes darkened. Finally, he said, "America," his voice flat and tired. Later, I asked him again where he was from. This time I heard an audible drawl in his response that chilled me. I knew he was from New Orleans. His voice was haunted by the ghost of Katrina.

By the time it came for him to settle his bill, I had arranged for the restaurant to buy his meal. When I told him, he went to tip me. I asked him to give the money to someone back in New Orleans who really needed it. With a tear in his eye, he took my hand between his and told me he knew exactly who he would give it to. He thanked me profusely and was gone.

I feed the people.

When I was living in Chicago many years ago, I was in a play in which I portrayed a Lebanese immigrant who came to this country and achieved the American dream. The character worked in a video store and in one of his monologues, there was a line where I uttered the words "Be kind—rewind." I uttered the phrase in a way that brought the house down. The play was a hit, and I was fortunate enough to receive generous reviews. For a guy just getting his feet wet, it was a heady experience.

Unfortunately, it proved to be an exception to the rule. After that, I went through a long drought, acting-wise. Time went by and I was unable to find another show. There were absolutely no prospects in sight. I took a job waiting tables. One day after I had just got off work and was waiting to catch a bus, a freezing rain began to pelt me. Though I had an umbrella, the rain fell with such intensity that using it seemed futile. Besides, I was so miserable it only seemed right that I stand in the rain getting lashed.

Just then, a woman approached me and asked, "Are you Michael Raysses?" I didn’t recognize her, and the question only made me feel worse than I already felt. I wanted to say no, to deny being me. Instead, I just nodded my head. Her eyes lit up and she said, "Be kind—rewind!" She proceeded to tell me how much she loved the play and how it touched her. Then she squeezed my hand and told me I was destined for great things.

The people feed me.

We all hunger. We all yearn. It could be the desire to feed others or the need to be fed. Maybe it’s the same for you. Perhaps all that’s important is that we honor both forces in our thoughts, words, and even the smallest of deeds.  Because it doesn’t take a lot to fill us up.

Bon appetit.

Originally posted to TheSometimesWhy on Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 12:31 AM PDT.

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