The Random Writings of Rachel: Robert and the KFC Leftovers

Robert and the KFC Leftovers

When you live in one place for a long time, you come to recognize the homeless people in your area. There was this one uncle who was known for walking all day long, up one side of the main road of our city for miles, and then he'd turn around and walk all the way back down the other side.

We'd see him nearly every time we left the house--tall, tanned, and very skinny, with wiry gray hair. Always wearing an old brown security guard uniform. We heard he had a family living in another country, but walking up and down the main road was this man's way of life. We'd see him sleeping on benches sometimes as we walked or drove past, and we'd occasionally see and hear him in vigorous conversation with the trees that lined the road, or arguing with stray dogs. Sometimes when you were walking past, he wouldn't notice you because he'd be too busy talking to nothing at all. Like in America, many of Malaysia's homeless are people with mental disorders.


As the years went on, we grew to find the sight of this uncle very familiar. My sister and I would greet him with "Hello, Uncle," if we passed him while walking to school for my drama practices. Once, he stopped my Dad while he was walking back from work and pointed out his shoes, which were worn through. I remember Dad coming into the house in a hurry that day, grabbing a pair of his tennis shoes, and running back up to the main road to the spot where he'd told the man to wait for a few moments and he'd be back with some shoes.

He only spoke a little English, and I never talked to him at length. His name was Robert. Somehow, the uncle who walked the street all day everyday gradually became a part of our small town Malaysian lifestyle.

One day, we were on our way home from a lunch at KFC, when we spotted the uncle, walking as usual. We had a box with a few extra pieces of chicken that hadn't been devoured at lunchtime, and Dad pulled the car over, stopped Robert, and asked if he'd like some chicken.

"Are you sure your family doesn't need this?" he asked, and asked again, to confirm that he wasn't taking away anything we needed before he took the box of KFC leftovers.

I was sitting in the backseat of our minivan that day, but his question, "Are you sure your family doesn't need this?" has stuck with me in all the many years since. He wanted to make sure we had enough before he'd take anything.

Sometime after I headed for college, the uncle who walked up and down the street disappeared and was never seen again. My family asked around--nearly everyone in the neighborhood knew Robert by sight, and in our kind of community, there's usually someone who knows something, but no one ever had an answer. That bothers me. I wish there was an answer. All that's left is one family who remembers his name.

{This post is Day 6 in my 31 Days Series: 31 Days of Growing Up In Malaysia}

18 comments:

  1. What a kind man and maybe one day you will find out what happened

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  2. What a kind man and maybe one day you will find out what happened

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  3. Oh my gosh. So sweet that he asked if you were sure your family didn't need it. I hope Robert is okay.

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  4. We've become familiar with many of the homeless people in our community as well. What a wonderful example your dad set by meeting the needs of this man! We've been teaching our kids to notice others and meet needs, even in small ways, as well. Thanks for sharing :)

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  5. Oh my, that is so touching. Sending good thoughts to Robert wherever he may be :)

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  6. What a story. Bless you and your family for feeding him.

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  7. What a sad story. It seems that no matter the country people with mental health issues always slip through the cracks of society.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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  8. What a great story! I hope that old man is okay.

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  9. Wow, that's amazing. I can't believe he was more worried about the hunger of your family than his own. What a great lesson...I'm glad this man entered your life.

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  10. What an interesting story! I wonder what happened to him...

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  11. Thank you for sharing. I'm sure the kindness your family showed him had a big impact on his life. It makes me so sad that often our homeless are invisible and treated as less than human.

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  12. Such a touching story. Even the "invisible" or "overlooked" people of the world can have an impact on us.

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  13. I am so quick to dismiss people like Robert, and quite frankly, avoid them. But what a profound impact someone like him can have.

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  14. My husband and I chaperoned a youth mission trip a few years ago. The trip wasn't designed for us or what we would get out of it; it was a youth trip. However, it profoundly changed how we view the homeless. We were taken with the idea of "radical hospitality" consequently, when a homeless person walks up to us, we don't run away or divert our eyes, we look them in eye and talk with them and help them if we can. What a beautiful example your Dad was to his children.

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  15. The life lessons you learned from "uncle" have to be so impactful. I also think that growing up in Malaysia must have been quite the experience. Glad to meet you here today.

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  16. what a powerful story to share rachel! it's amazing how someone with so little was so cognizant of making sure another family's needs were met before his. wow!

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  17. What a bittersweet little story! For some reason, homeless persons always grab my attention. I have a deep spot in my heart for them. The same way people do for rescue animals or caring for the old. They have no roof over their heads, food, decent clothing...and yet, they have their own stories and something to share with the world they live in that is so harsh to them. I'm so glad your family made efforts to help Robert in whatever ways they could.

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  18. What a story! I bet he was so thankful for your family and the kindness y'all showed him!

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