Begging For Change

Across the parking lot came vagrants, people braving the wind and pollen to make their way towards an effigy of everything the weekend was – a place where materials dwell and money is spent religiously, a fixture of useless objects and marginally overpriced goods.

They all seemed to face the sun as each person carried baggage, whether pocketbooks or personal items on their journey come that Spring.

These pilgrims oddly marched as each footstep hit that pavement, though their vehicles broke its silence with migrations brought by car.

I was certain there were reasons for their haste and wayward smiles, though my wife appeared unsettled by how many had no mask. It wasn’t that I felt elated knowing crowds would never listen, but it somehow eased my tension seeing humans be themselves.

For a year, I dared not enter any dwelling outside my comforts, meaning shopping would never happen – especially on days like these.

Despite my apprehensions, I kept pushing her to enter.

Then I remembered all those reasons, sickly wandering empty halls – even prior to this virus, when my heart would beat so strangely, calling ambulance after ambulance just to realize help won’t come.

The folks who brought me aid only ended up making me anxious, judging hope with their authority which I apparently still lack.

But life’s joke is purely on them, since “new normal” forced us to realize most have never understood depression from experience found in a cage.

My existence before this trauma had its perks beyond obsessing over health and every heartbeat my pulse missed from sensing truth – how routines below God’s heaven weren’t meant for man’s successes but enjoyment always squandered by requests of cash and sin.

Churches ask for daily tithings. Governments demand our taxes.

But has divinity ever expected anything from us other than love?

I was pondering this myself while we exited that market, catching an answer almost unnoticed out of the corner of my eye.

The woman was dressed in rags, though their appearance proved mysterious – her tattered blanket wavered with each passing gale of dust.

Her mouth, unlike the rest, was shrouded beneath a covering, dirtied but held correctly above her nose which slightly curved.

Heavily, she exhaled, staring longingly at each customer, wishing guests would pay attention as she weakly shook her arm.

I realized begging for change wasn’t exactly considered saintly, yet in that moment, there were halos hovering gently above her head.

Perhaps Christ Himself had sent her into our midst as a staunch reminder how real hope was often needed by the ones whose chances pass.

I had never been in her shoes. I was guilty of being privileged.

For that, I took five dollars and folded it into her cup.

It was nothing, merely a gesture. If possible, I’d have given a hundred.

It just left me sad and empty since no one else had stopped.

She said “thank you,” and we walked -my spouse soon near close behind me, charging away from that busy building hearing her coins bounce to and fro.

Those bricks besides her echoed with the sound of rattling faithfulness – calling out to those who listened or believed good will endured.

I prayed tomorrow told her that graffiti spelled out gospel, and asphalt riddled with potholes offered seas of endless wealth, counting faces far more lost since her plight allowed her spirit to be found a true example of how suffering made her rich – in ways I thought I’d learned, locked at home without much purpose but agreeing pain was certain for such souls who can’t achieve.

Her glance, it taught me trust. Once more, that tomorrow lingered, inevitable though elusive – and worth what chaos loomed.

Pandemic or personal choice. Trauma or tragic endings.

I don’t count what blessings give me. I savor what they exclude.

  • J. Pigno

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