|A blind beggar sits, head lowered, hand begging for money.|
Etching by J. Zubau, 1865.
Why is it, when life reminds me that I’m a jerk, I’m so taken aback? Why am I continually surprised by my lack of generosity, my selfishness?
I tell myself daily that I’m a good Christian woman. I drive to work singing along to KLOVE and saying my morning prayer of praise/don’t let me hurt anyone today. Then I encounter someone who needs help, or is rude, or hurried, and I digress to what I truly am: a self-centered ingrate.
The woman at the corner of the Davison and Livernois wasn’t very attractive. Her teeth were rotten and gappy; her pants were too tight and her shirt was dirty. I wondered why she put that big rock on her purse that she left at the base of the street sign. Did she think it would blow away? Did she suppose that the stone would deter a would-be thief? The purse was cheap; it couldn’t have contained anything of value. And if it did, why was she begging?
She held out her hand defiantly. How rude. Why does she think we owe her something? She held up five fingers and approached each car. Does she assume we are all wealthy commuters with at least five dollars to spare?
I could have kept my eyes focused forward. It would have been easy to ignore her. My window was up and my door was locked. As I waited in the left turn lane, I could have pretended not to notice her. But something compelled me to open my window a crack. “Honey, I’m sorry, I don’t have anything to spare.”
I told her the truth, more or less. I knew that I didn’t have any bills in my wallet. I rarely did. Like most folks of my status, I use debit and credit cards almost exclusively. And I really am cash-poor, I reminded myself. It was rare that I had anything left in my account in the days before pay day.
She was ticked. She looked at me in disgust and shook her head. “Even a dime? You don’t have a dime?”
I was ticked now too. “No, I don’t have a penny, I’m serious!”
It was a lie but it didn’t feel like it, not at all.
I drove a block or two before I checked my change purse. It was fairly full; the coins added up to at least two and a half bucks.
My face felt hot. Should I go back? The other day, when I saw that sweet old man on Six Mile, I almost turned around. He had a cardboard sign with “God bless you” scrawled on it. He certainly needed my help in a way this woman did not, I was patently sure of it.
I looked in the rear view mirror and applied my favorite lipstick: Clinique’s “extreme pink.” I only buy it twice a year when I can get a gift with purchase at Macy’s.
Maybe I’ll stop tomorrow. I could hand her the lipstick along with my wallet, and it wouldn’t be enough to cover the imperfections, neither her obvious ones nor mine that I hide so effectively each day. I know that I won’t stop; my wants have become needs. I’ve been blinded.
So I sit at my desk and type, and drink hot coffee from a pretty mug. Will I see? Can I change? Who is the blind beggar most in need?
I’m a good Christian woman. Don’t let me hurt anyone today.
Lord, have mercy.