She was waiting in the wings, dressed in rags, hesitant to approach me, but when I caught her eye, she put on this most disconsolate face and begged, “Help me. I suffer from Hypertension and I can’t buy my medicine.”
She took out a piece of paper containing a prescription, “The doctor in our barangay health clinic warned me, ‘Buy this medicine, quantity good for one month, or else, your condition will worsen and lead to cardiac arrest, stroke or even death.’”
I took her aside and replied, “I can’t give you cash. But, see the pharmacy just across from where we are? We can get your medicine now.”
At the pharmacy, I showed the prescription to the lady behind the counter. “Everything in this paper?” she asked. I nodded. “Yes, and please triple it so that she’d have medicine for the next three months.”
The sick woman squirmed and gave me an antsy look. “There you are,” I said. “I hope you’d feel much better, soon.” She couldn’t speak, as if lost for words at the sudden surplus of medicine.
The following day, I saw her again. This time, she was standing at the other side of the grounds, still disheveled and desolate. I stopped and watched her. She approached an elderly woman, holding the same prescription in her hand. She was about to reenact her rehearsed lines when she saw me from the corner of her eye. Poof! She was gone.
I saw her a couple of times more. Each time, she’d run off in a scurry of confusion.
Was I the great sucker? I sure felt like one. I was even angry, until I remembered the prayer to the Divine Mercy, “Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness.”
A point of challenge: How far would you go? How deep is your faith?
If you see the poor, desperate and needy, do you get harassed? Do you ignore them? Do you wish that the Social Welfare would do their job and round them up, out of sight and out of mind? Do you feel pity and extend a hand to help out? For how long and how often?
In any economy, the poor cannot be eliminated. Even in the richest of countries, there will still be the problem of the poor, whether they are natives or new immigrants escaping a cruel or despondent life.
Do they serve any purpose in the grand scheme of things?
The poor becomes a School. They teach us:
Compassion – opening our hearts to understand and be moved by their impoverished condition. We extend help, in kind, through monetary means, or making it possible for them to go to school and be taught. With knowledge come opportunities that open new horizons, thus, reducing poverty in a positive way;
They deepen our Faith in our merciful God who would never abandon them or any of His children;
They challenge us to be kind, teaching us the virtue of Humility. Furthermore, God uses His other children as His conduit, His bridge to bring comfort and relief to His other sons and daughters who are deprived of brotherly love.
A friend kept complaining about his compadre who fell into hard times. He kept borrowing enormous amount of money from him. He was eroding his patience and wanted to drop him as a friend. Another compadre set his mind in perspective. “Isn’t it better that you are in a position to give help rather than beg for help? Which side would you rather be? Isn’t a true friend one who holds your hand in good times and in bad?”
Outside the church grounds, there was a man who gingerly appeared, murmuring something inaudible. My husband reached into his pocket and slipped a note to him. He smiled softly and returned to a shady corner.
“You know why he needs help?” my husband said. “He lost his nose, his fingers, his toes and maybe, other parts of his body because of an infectious disease. Do you think anyone would bother to hire him in his disfigured condition even if he is eager to work?”
I thought of the parable of Lazarus, the poor man covered with sores who waited for scraps from the table of the rich man dressed in purple.
In the afterlife, Lazarus was brought up to Heaven where he received mercy and compassion.
Let us learn from the poor.
They bring a deep sense of value that can never be measured in human or worldly terms.