Thursday, August 30, 2007

Heaven's Test

I was sitting in the book store, where i went after work to find a littl einspiration from the great poets. I went because I used to read lots of poetry and now i don't and there's a little ache where that part used to be fulfilled. I had chosen a great place to sit, in a small corner between the science fiction and mystery, where I set out to read a little Blake.

I had my head phones on, though I usually keep them off when I'm reading (i find that music and books are both things that demand my attention and unless you find the perfect compliment they detract from one another) but the music in the store is just loud enough to be disturbing and not at all the type of music well suited to William Blake. I was there for an hour flipping back and forth between poems, reading and re-reading aloud when a boy ambled slowly down the aisle, touching side display coming to stand in front of me.

He was small, couldn't have been older than eleven, thinish thought most children of that age group are. He leaned in and said something inaudible. I, of course, immediately assumed he was trying to get to the books behind me, especially since he seemed to look at each book as he approached with such care. I sort of leaned to get up but he spoke again. This time I removed a head phone, craned my ear closer to him, "What?"

Again inaudible. A whisper, and being one of twenty people in the world physically incapable of reading lips I of course had no idea what he may have been saying.

"What," again, this time louder.

He leaned forward ever so slightly. "Can I have some money so I can get something to eat?'

"I'm sorry, " I answered, my automatic New York response. I didn't hesitate. I didn't think about it the words just rolled off my tongue. I'm sorry. thats all, two words, so simple it was almost a knee jerk reaction. I curiously watched him slowly walk back down the aisle, the same way he'd came, touching everything he passed. Out of all the people standing around, I think I was the only one he asked. This is not a coincidence. It took me a minute to register what had just happened, another minute to process my reaction. Why didn't I ask him where his parents where, or if he was okay OR if he wanted to walk down to the McDonalds that was literally a block away and buy him something to eat.

Chances are no matter what his situation if he were really hungry....if he wanted to go to get something to eat, then of course..

I stood up and, with an arm full of books, perceded to search the store, from where i was to the children section, to the art books, back to fiction, to the cafe and around again. Downstairs. Back upstairs. Checked each corner and that quick he was gone.

Sometimes, and I'm sure its my religious background...I think the heavens are testing me. That here is a moment, where I'm presented with the option of doing the kind thing the right thing. Here is a moment to not freeze up and turn someone, let alone a child, away. And instead, I say "I'm sorry."

And the moment is over and the boy is gone.



At 9:35 PM, Blogger dqerwin said...

In chicago I have the same problem, day after day. Usually it's not children, though sometimes people our own age. The only way I can think of to rationalize my refusal is to accept the fact that humans are nothing special. If God were testing us, he would have already failed, himself, billions of times over the last few thousand years. We must focus on creating culture and beauty and superseding the bleak ugliness He has left strewn about everywhere - pick your battles and make progress where you are strongest. When we are rich we will start charities to help those we can't help now.


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