Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Giving to others...

If I happen to have change in my coat pocket (and normally I do) I will give to those people begging on the street or in the metro station. It certainly would not be possible to give to everyone because Paris is full of people asking for money, or performing for money. But I certainly don't avoid those who are less fortunate looking for help. I don't know what it is they do with the money, and frankly I don't care. I give people the benefit of the doubt and believe that they are in fact hungry and/or homeless and give what I have. Certainly this isn't a big gesture. But I would like to think that perhaps the Euro or two I deposit in their cup could give some small relief.

Lately though, I've been saving my Euros to deposit in the cup of a lady who begs in the metro station on my way home from work. My heart absolutely breaks every single time I see her. She is middle aged I would guess and some days she is sitting at the top of the stairs, her usual spot, and is crying. Every time I see her cry I wonder if some heartless person has gone before me and said something mean to her. On those days I wish I could hug her, or say something that would make feel better. But I don't know the cause of those tears, and I don't know why she is forced to beg so I give what I can and hope it helps. She averts her eyes from everyone and sits huddled up as though she's embarrassed to be there. She holds a small sign that says "J'ai faim"-I'm hungry.

Today before I reached my final station, and where my sweet lady is, I was reading a book called 'A Fine Balance' on the train. It's about India in the mid-70's and the hardships of people who were homeless and some forced to beg. And this evening I read a line that struck me, and I had to put the book away, "O Babu, without beggars how will people wash away their sins?" And I felt guilty. I felt guilty for feeling good when I dropped those few coins in people's cups. Guilty for believing that my giving would make a difference to them, but was I sub consciously thinking it would make me a better person? No, I don't think I give to balance out my wrongdoings, or sins, but it did make me feel guilty. Guilty enough to put that book away and think about it.

And so tonight, when I dropped my Euro and a half in the sweet lady's cup, she grabbed my hand. And for once she looked in my eyes and said "Vous etes gentille"-You are kind, and my heart hurt so much. It was as though she knew I felt guilty and that I wished I could do something more than give the Euro and a half left from buying my lunch. Tonight I didn't walk away with a lighter heart and the feeling of doing good. I walked away with tears in my eyes and her three words echoing in my ears.

The world is a cruel place sometimes, and as Esther so eloquently put it this morning, "[There are things in life that] remind us how quickly things can change and how fragile we all really are". I don't give to this lady or others to make me a better person. I do it because I hope that it helps. And maybe one day I can and will do more. But for now, I wish I could tell that sweet lady crying at the top of the stairs, that there's someone thinking of her right now and wishing the world hadn't been so cruel to her...

It's time to start saying my prayers again I think, there are a few people who need them this week...

1 Comments:

At 11:44 AM , Blogger Lynn and Donald said...

wow so I just cried and cried when I read that blog. You know me I cry at everything, but Kate the more we are growing we grow a like. In Toronto, I always try to do something not to feel better or to make a difference, but to help, let those people know that I care. Once I went and bought 6 sets of hats and mittens and dropped them off as I walked. I so want to help in someway too. Good job, and I am sure that lady knows that you are thinking of her. You are a very kind hearted person, and the things you feel and the things you do, are exactly YOU. Don't change there are people in the world that need YOU!
XO
Lynn

 

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