Friday, September 01, 2006

Pride and prejudice

I had an interesting experience this afternoon. A woman climbed on the bus at the next stop to mine and either didn't know or else didn't care that I could easily recognise her as one of the many professionalbeggars who alternate between St. Peter's and St. Paul's.

Today she had been begging at St. Peter's. Once she sat down on the bus, out came her large bag, into which she stuffed her hastily rolled-up, black, widow's weeds. Then she could sit comfortably in her lightweight orange top and royal blue skirt.

A few minutes later, out came the bag for a second time. On this occasion she counted some of the money she had obtained this morning. Shortly afterwards, out came a second clinking mound, which she also counted, pouring both into one of the bag's compartments. At a very rough guess, she had made at least 60 two expensive pairs of children's shoes, which were also examined in detail.

The woman sat quietly for a while before opening up her bag yet again. This time she debated between a rather attractive sandwich and a fresh peach, opting for the peach, which she duly sat and ate.

Eventually it was time for her to disembark. The bag and her over-sized black crutch, normally an essential to her every step, were gathered up and hung over the woman's arm. Without a sign of a limp, she swung her way across the road towards St. Paul's, where she would once again become the crippled, grieving widow, duping unsuspecting pilgrims.

It was time for me to leave the bus. I excused myself to the young man sitting beside me with his book. He'd achieved something I couldn't because I suffer from horrible traffic sickness if I dare try to read on a moving bus. As I clambered past him, I noticed his hands and his right arm. His arm was seriously malformed from birth. His hands both bore only two fingers and a thumb, resembling claws rather than hands. He had such dignity. In no way could I imagine himself begging for help, yet he was so obviously limited in his activities.

I know which of the two passengers earned my respect.

God bless,
Sr. Janet