By Emmanuel Argaud
Translation Louise Thunin
”Would you happen to have ten cents ? Please, I’m hungry.“
Beyond the imposed communication barrier which makes us suspicious of one another in spite of ourselves, I felt drawn to the supplication of a “poverty-sticken” man waiting in front of the bakery where I was going, with my son, to buy our daily loaf. Still, it’s not the first time I’ve crossed the path of a human being asking for money or something to eat. Usually, like most passers-by, I mechanically nod « no » without recognizing the human being and his vital need. Like everyone else, I find a bunch of excuses: there are too many poor, it’s better to give to an official organization, they’ll know best whom to give to… he’ll use the money to drink or for drugs… I have children to feed and I work hard for that… he’s imposing on me!
Today it’s the incongruity of the small sum requested that surprised me… I projected myself for a moment into the place of that man daring to beg. My first thought : in his place, what would keep me in such miserable circumstances, senseless, almost useless? The desire to survive ? A weak inner light that tells me not to give up ? The mad desire to live and and to tell myself that tomorrow will be better ? Maybe all of that at the same time. Maybe none of it. Just that spark of life that won’t go out, fueled by hope. What hope ? He has nothing, but he’s alive.
I suddenly remember the parable of the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7 : 24-30) who was content with the crumbs the children had dropped under the table. And so I gave my loaf of bread to ”my“ poor man on the way out of the bakery. We shared a smile, he grateful, I gratified. My son, who saw the exchange of smiles, concluded the episode with this innocent remark : “So heaven isn’t a place of abundance but a place of sharing, if I’ve got it right… » He certainly had !
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