Sipping my coffee, I looked at the busy street outside. The traffic showed no sign of pausing. It was then I noticed the beggar, right outside the café. She was chasing after a man who was passing by. A dishevelled dirty skirt wrapped around her bottom, an oversize shirt hanging over a lanky top half, her hair grey with dirt, her arms stained with dirt…she was clearly among the bottom rung of even street dwellers. How had I not noticed her when I came in? Was I that oblivious to others?
I wanted to look away. But something about her had my attention today. I watched as she hounded a customer who walked away from the café. She begged for the coffee he was drinking. I watched her rub her stomach, take her hand near her mouth to ask for food. And that is when it struck me. She couldn’t speak!
Mouth half open, my hand paused mid-air. The pastry I had just taken a bite of waited. It hung in limbo before I came to my senses and placed it back on the plate. That was why she was so persistent. She had no way to even ask for food. She could ask for food, only if someone actually looked at her. I had seen most people weren’t.
Could I see her differently? Something stirred inside me. Like most people, I would have ignored her. We saw her as an unfortunate and unwanted part of society. But how could anything in this world be unwanted. How could anything of God’s be unwanted? Could I see her without the judgement of dirty? Could I see her without the label of a street-dweller? Could I see her as a woman? Could I see her as a child of God? Above all else I wanted to see her differently. I wanted to see everything differently. Without labels, without my pre-conceived ideas. Without my judgemental mind. I did not really know who she was or what she was or what her purpose in this universe is.
As the thought crossed my mind, a stranger handed her a note. A smile more brilliant than the sun, lit up her face. In that moment, she was everyone. She was not a beggar, nor a woman, nor poor, nor desperate. She was the epitome of all that is light. It lasted but an instant, but in that second, I glimpsed something I didn’t exactly understand.
Finishing my pastry, I walked to the counter to pick up some snacks and a cool drink for her. It was nothing but I felt I owed her that much.