Dear Subway Sandwich Fairy: Thank You for Paying It Forward

The Subway Sandwich Fairy was here!

“Random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” in the form of a tray of sandwiches half-submerged in snow. Photo Credit: Audrey F. Henderson — All Rights Reserved

Dear Subway Sandwich Fairy:

I hope you don’t mind that I’ve given you this nickname. It seems fitting given the tray of fifteen Subway sandwiches in a sealed container that you left on a bench at Chase Plaza in the middle of downtown Chicago. I have no idea who you really are, but I know one important thing about you: you are a kind, caring person who wishes to preserve the privacy and dignity of those hungry people who happen to consume one or more of those sandwiches.

As you undoubtedly know, Mr. or Ms. Sandwich Fairy, this winter has been (and continues to be) one of the worst in recent memory with waves of bone-chilling cold and seemingly endless snow. A lot of people are suffering. At the same time, there seems to be an unrelenting cold-hearted attitude among many of the most privileged members of our society toward those of us who are less fortunate than they are.

For example, former NFL quarterback John Elway declared that he was a Republican because he doesn’t believe in safety nets while millionaire (billionaire?) venture capitalist Tom Perkins (of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, dontcha know) compared criticism of growing inequality between the 1 percent and everyone else in this country to Kristallnacht. (No, really.) The Wall Street Journal called the comparison “unfortunate” and then proceeded to defend the essence of what Perkins wrote in a commentary with the headline of “Perkinsnacht.”

Meanwhile all indications point to an increased need for generosity such as yours in the coming weeks. At the end of December 2013 1.3 million Americans lost a vital lifeline when Congressional Republicans refused to extend long-term unemployment insurance. With each passing week, 72,000 more unfortunate Americans join the ranks of those losing their unemployment checks, which in many cases represent the only income for the entire household.

Unemployment Insurance

1.3 million job seekers lost long-term unemployment insurance benefits at the end of December 2013. An additional 72,000 displaced workers lose vital unemployment insurance benefits every week that Congress fails to act. Photo Credit: Audrey F. Henderson — All Rights Reserved

Nonetheless, the GOP is holding firm on its resistance to extending this much-needed lifeline,
with its members employing pretzel logic to justify their positions. For instance, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul insists that providing extended unemployment insurance would be a “disservice to these workers” while Texas Congressman Pete Sessions claims that reinstating lost unemployment benefits to sidelined workers (and their families, mind you) would be “immoral.”

Many self-labeled conservatives insist that it is the role of charities and individuals to provide for those in need, not government. And of course, charities and individuals do a lot to help their fellow human beings, just as you have. I have personally witnessed such kind-hearted acts. While riding on a subway train one afternoon I saw a man give his just purchased individual pizza to a ragged-looking man begging for food. On another afternoon I observed a man paying the bill for a young woman in a food court restaurant who found herself short. Random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

However, the failure to provide at least a minimal safety net on a local, state and even federal governmental level to people who are facing tough times is not only heartless, it represents bad economic policy. Surely it would seem that the need for one of the stores operated by the world’s largest retailer to conduct a food drive for its employees who would otherwise be unable to afford Thanksgiving dinner would set off loud warning bells that something is seriously amiss. People who have no money don’t buy anything, which is anathema to a consumer-driven economy such as that of the United States.

I didn’t take any of your sandwiches, dear Sandwich Fairy. At present I am fortunate enough not to need such assistance. However, I hope you realize that your generosity had not gone unnoticed – not by me, and certainly not by those individuals who were just a bit less hungry for at least one day as a result of your gesture. I imagine that you hope as I do that our elected officials will take up the slack, hopefully sooner rather than later.

With sincere appreciation,



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