Monday, July 11, 2005

Faith, hope, and charity

Here’s a curious little thing that happened to me on Friday that I thought I should record while it’s still in my mind and the sense of wonder is still fresh.

Friday morning I decided to go down to the city archives to get the aerial photos you see in the Old Cummer Avenue posting. When I got to the end of the Allen (a.k.a., the ill-starred Spadina Expressway) at Eglinton, there was a young woman with a sign saying that she was in sincere need of help.

I don’t ordinarily carry cash. At all. None. Bad habit, I know, but by the time I was working seriously, ATMs and Interac were well-established, so I never got in the habit of carrying real money. So as I sat there, I was pretty sure I had nothing to offer. I’d dressed pretty lightly and thought I had only the essentials; cell, wallet, mechanical pencil, and keys. But I thought I’d search anyway, if only so I could offer her an honest ‘I’m sorry’ shrug. But lo and behold, there in my pocket was a toonie ($2 coin for those of you who don’t speak Canuck). So I rolled down the window and placed it in her hand. We talked over one another: her thanking me for this small gesture, and me apologizing for how paltry it was (it was, literally, every cent I had on me). And then the light changed, and I turned onto Eglinton and that was that.

It’s funny how I’m more bothered by the fact that I only had two dollars to give her than I would have been if I’d had no money at all and could have just said ‘sorry’. It’s as though in having nothing to give, I can imagine I’d have given her $5 or $10 or $20, if only. I guess is a would-be Andrew Carnegie if only their bank happens to be closed. Still, upon reflection, it occurs to me that if only ten or fifteen people stopped and gave her no more than me, then at least she would eat that day, and maybe the next. That’s not much, but it’s something. Here’s to her, and hopes for better times for her.

I guess the really interesting thing for me in all this is how that coin seemed to come right out of nowhere. Obviously it was there from the last time I’d worn those shorts; I’d simply neglected to take it out of my pocket. But in that split second the ‘certainty’ I’d had that I didn’t have any money on me turned into the realization I had something to give, it was something like a little miracle. Just for a second, it was like seeing the hand of God at work in the world.

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