Monday, September 26, 2011


I was sitting at the table having lunch on Saturday in a moment of solitude before diving back into the rest of a very busy day.  One of the neat things about the room in which we have breakfast and lunch is that it affords a nice view of one of the doors into the church where you can see what is going on inside.  Half way through my warmed over pizza I see a gentleman come out.  I know him.  He has no connection to the community in anyway save for one.  He shows up every once in a while and asks for money, usually on a Sunday, usually having a great story about why he needs the money in the next 15 minutes or the world as we know it will come to an end and therefore I cannot put him in touch with Saint Vincent de Paul.  It will be too late.


I wait for the doorbell to ring hoping I could finish the pizza first.  “Father,” our secretary said, “there’s a gentleman here to see you.”

“I’ll be right there.”

He greeted me like an old friend.  “Can we talk privately?”  We went into an office and sat down.  Two visits ago I had interrupted his story and said, “Why don’t you just come to the part where you ask for money.”  Of course he was hurt and I felt mean so this time I sat through the whole telling.  It was worth the price of admission and ended with an unprompted promise that I would never, ever see him again.  Probably.  Unless things changed.

During the story I was thinking of my pizza and the twelve things that had to get done today as priorities for the diocese or one group or another that needs to have whatever done today about the same time this guys needs his money or the world will end.  I was at best a tolerant host.

He left and I went back to my seat at the table noticing that men in tuxes were beginning to show up for the next wedding.  I wish I could be as pleased to see my gentleman beggar as was to see them.  Sebastian was crying.  It was very late for his walk.  And the dishwasher is broken so first I would have to clean dishes.

And despite my angst and put-out-ness – everything got done.


Cracked Pot said...

In the early 1980s, a psychologist told me that many of the homeless people [at that time, anyway] had varying degrees of mental illness. They used to be housed in institutions for the mentally ill.

Then came the "movement" to de-institutionalize such people and "return them to the community." The money thus saved was supposed to follow them, to set up treatment programs. Some or all of the money didn't quite follow them.

I'm not arguing for or against "mental institutions." But that psychologist's comment has stuck with me. Those who might be mentally ill need more than a handout. It's a heart-breaking situation.

Trevor said...

In ways that cannot be quantified, Father, your post today helped me.

Anonymous said...

I am arguing for mental institutions and more prisons. I think both facilities should be as safe and as nice as possible so that those among us who are violent and/or insane have a place to stay and are kept away from those of us who are not violent and/or insane. If it were safe & nice, they would want to stay there. It would be easier for us to visit them and to help them with the armed guards nearby and the chained linked fencing between us. It was a very bad idea to allow the insane out of the mental institutions. There was a reason they were in there.