It is almost the end of 2013. The thought staggers my mind a bit. Here we are, not quite in mid-November, and in the blink of an eye, we will have a new year. Please, not so fast. There’s much to do.
The fourth Thursday of November is Thanksgiving Day. It is a huge holiday in America. Travel goes into fever pitch, the busiest season of the year. After living more than 30 years in that part of the world, we brought the tradition home. But the holiday is not just about turkey and the symbols of a bountiful harvest. It is a special day set aside for family to get together and give thanks. For us it is the official start of the Christmas season.
At home right now our family is in the middle of planning a wedding. On the 24th my first grandson takes a bride. For the longest time I watched our little Martin, such a happy child but always so serious, sometimes solemn, totally committed to school, an overachiever who seemed too busy with his career to bother about things romantic. I never saw him too impressed or smitten by anyone in particular. Oh, I saw a twinkle in his eye, once, maybe twice. But never shooting stars! Not until Lalita.
As I did when my four granddaughters were married, I look forward to this grand event. How time has flown. That cute little boy who loved chewing on little bits of carpet is all grown up now. Once quite overwhelmed by an overstrict lola, today he is my IT tutor; my secret writing partner, my late-night e-mailer; the troubleshooter of my smartphones; an avid fan and main devourer of my Thanksgiving turkey. I hear wedding bells and my heart breaks into song!
Photos of autumn scenes have surfaced online. I miss the spectacle of fall. Summer ends in a blaze as winter lurks quietly behind the scenes, threatening to put a freeze in the air. It is such a short season. Oh, but it dazzles!
I remember one spectacular fall sunrise in Reno many yesterdays ago. I still see with painful nostalgia, the leaves hanging on as if for dear life on the branches of the maples and sycamores. Dressed in blinding bright green and yellow only the day before, they suddenly turned to mimic the brilliant colors of sunset. Daybreak showed the trees like flaming torches lighting our way, giving us a lavish welcome or perhaps bidding us a sad and final farewell.
I live that morning over, memories now bittersweet. And once again I taste the grace and the goodness of God.
Against the law?
A couple of days ago, stuck in traffic in the middle of a downpour, I saw a boy, not quite 8 years old, standing beside my car, a little girl with matted wet hair riding on his back. In the gathering twilight I saw the desperate face of hunger leaning against the glass window of the van.
I scrounged in my purse looking for some money and made a mental note that I have been forgetting to bring those little lunches I used to carry in the car. I slid my door open and handed the boy some money. He smiled a big thank you.
But there was an empty feeling deep in my heart. I knew that the crumpled bill I gave him was not nearly and would never be enough.
Someone in the car reminded me that giving alms to beggars is in violation of the law. It is, indeed.
The Mendicancy Law of 1978 was promulgated “to prevent the exploitation of infants and children and to promote the rehabilitation of minors found begging in the streets, sidewalks and public parks.”
The law makes it likewise a crime to give them alms. It derives some strength from comments claiming that “blind charity” is wrong and that “indiscriminate giving is a sin.”
“The best way to help street children is to teach them how to help themselves,” said one expert opinion.
According to the law, anyone caught panhandling in the street will be fined at least P500 and, if a minor, committed to the custody of a child placement agency. A person caught giving alms violates the same law and can be fined no more than P20. I have researched but have found no updates or amendments to the law. Yes, I chuckled, too.
I know it isn’t funny. But I don’t know how to feel as I review the crime I committed that evening. Have I contributed to vagrancy? Did I aid and abet the devious plans of child abusers?
But first, tell me, how can you turn away from a child who knocks on your window asking for money or a meal? How can you look the other way while he runs alongside your vehicle, risking life and limb just for a measly handout? To obey the law, do we send them away empty-handed?
I am not happy to support the racketeers and opportunists who exploit our children. Neither is it my intention to break the law. But what is the alternative?
Think about this for a minute. If your child were with you in the car and a hungry street person came along, how could you explain turning him away? Can you justify to your child refusing to help someone who is hungry and in need? How can you tell him that doing right can be wrong? I don’t know the answers. Do you?
Let me suggest then that we ask only one question: “What would Jesus do?”