October 24, 2015
"All around the sick and all around the poor I see a special light which we do not have." Bl. P.G. Frassati.
I asked for his name, he said "Al".
I had been observing him for a few minutes as he was by the entrance opening the door for the parishioners.
"I am here most of the time, I sleep on the grass over there (pointing at a small area beneath the stairs)…it's a struggle in the winter.
Life is not easy, when people see you on the streets they often ignore you or despise you with the looks they give you.
I spend most of the winter at the hospital though...I always get sick.
I know of a guy who got really sick last winter, he collapsed on Main St. (Orange NJ), people passed by him, and over him, as if he was not there.
People are trash, they have no mercy... well, maybe not all of them, a few of the ladies on Thursday nights sometimes take me to Dunkin Donuts and buy me coffee.
I spend most of the time here opening the door, I want no money, I do it because I used to come to this church when I was young.
Sometimes I come across those who ask me to leave, but I just don’t listen because I want to make sure everybody gets home safe...especially at night.
I stand by the parking lot each night to check on people. If I see weird dudes wandering this area I scare them away or curse them out until they leave... I gotta keep this place safe for the ladies.
But no matter what I do people still hate me, they look down on me, they curse at me, they don’t like me. Just because I look like this I don’t get to be one of the good gentlemen someone would say 'hi' to and smile."
Al was such a difficult person to talk to. He became frustrated and wouldn’t let me speak at all. My intention was to make him aware of the reality behind the way people look at him, it is a lie, it doesn’t mean he is less of a man. We got to the point where Al was just complaining about everything. It kind of bothered me, because usually we are the “evangelists” of good will, we want to deliver the good news rather than listening to the chaos of this world. Soon I realized how those who have been forgotten by the world urge to exist, they just want to be heard, they wait for the moment someone would come and ask for their names, “How's it going?" "How you doing?" We all have this need, a longing to be acknowledged and feel someone out there cares about what we go through, someone we can always vent out our desperation, even if it's something small like most of our "first world problems" we usually complaint about.
It always helps to know someone will listen, but what if we had no one to comfort us one day? What if we had no one to validate our suffering and tell us "it's ok, I’m here".
"America is a country where you are judged by your wallet, I have nothing so I am nothing. You can wear a suit and drive a nice car and you are considered 'classy' and 'worthy", even if you have no respect for life and a rotten heart. But if you look like me, no matter how good you try to be, still... you are no more than a garbage bag.
You put a monkey in suit and it is still a monkey, and people respect that monkey even if it's a person who looks down on others and humiliates the poor.
I have been to prison, I have been rich and I have been poor, I know life, I know suffering, but people don’t care, and I don’t expect them to care, it is what it is.
I don’t ask for money, because I don’t like to bother people. I often see guys on the streets telling their stories, sad stories of their lives, I don’t need to do this because we all have our own sufferings and it seems like people don’t have time to listen, and if they have time they just don’t care about others.
I want to tell you my story, but you have your own. And you might think I’m full of bullshit or that I want money...but no, I am full of good intentions.
People from this parish, they come and go, they ignore me, church people are the worst sometimes, they pray inside and it stays there. When they come out, I open the door and still I’m invisible. The other day I saw a man struggling with one of those cars full of groceries. I said 'good morning’ he asked me to go away, but I stayed because I thought he needed my help, and he did. He was having a hard time getting the little car up the stairs, so I approached him again; he immediately cursed me out and got aggressive.
I do good deeds, not because I want money...
"What do you want?" I interrupted.
"I want someone to say THANK YOU". His voice broke and I could see his eyes tearing a bit, even though he tried not to show it. "When you are content, it doesn’t matter what you are, rich or poor, or where you live. When you are content, you love life, when you are content you have hope…people are not content anymore."
"Are you content Al?". I interrupted again.
"No, I am not"
Pray for Al.
Pray for a spirit of compassion in our church.
Let us receive Christ and also let us give Christ to others.
Let us go to church but do not let our prayers and devotions be kept inside only.
Be religious and be spiritual, but also be human, and be content... only then we would become true witnesses of God's love.
Pray for us.