Today, in the 31 Days With St Ignatius, the topic is the Daily Examen–a most worthy, noble and important part of the spirituality of St Ignatius. In fact, he would say it is the indispensable component of a life of disciplined prayer. It’s just that I’m still sorting through yesterday’s post.
Let me explain. Yesterday evening, I was lying in bed, having gone home from work early. Still woozy and slightly nauseated from all the coughing, all I wanted to do was sleep. Then María called and the Mallowman, who is a great dad, went and got her so she could eat dinner with us. In the meantime, my doctor’s assistant called to let me know I had a cough medicine script waiting at the pharmacy. From there, it was easy to offer to take my girl back to BARC after dinner. I would pick up my meds (though in the opposite direction from BARC), jump on 595 and drop her off. We laughed and giggled in Walgreens. We kept cracking up all the way to BARC and if it was brutally hard, again, leaving her, I have learned how to soldier on and not surrender to helpless grief. I even decided to skip getting off on 441 to meander up Riverland to my house. No, I took the more adventuresome route, and stayed on 595 to I-95.
There’s always a street person holding up a sign at the light when you make the exit off 95 onto Davie. One annoys me–he holds a sign that says, “what the heck, just give me money for a beer.” Last night it was a young woman, in her 20’s, black pony tail, cleaner and more carefully groomed than I’m used to seeing, standing right next to where I came to a stop. I looked at her and as soon as I made eye contact, her eyes welled with tears. I rolled down my window, buck in hand. When she came up to me she said, “I’m so sorry to need your money, I am so sorry. This is so hard” I don’t even know what I said to her, but it was something about the fact that I could see what a beautiful person she was and how sorry I was that life had gotten so bad. I told her I would pray for her. I paused and then I found a larger bill in my wallet, leaned back out, took her hand, gave her the money and told her to stay strong. She told me she was trying so hard to stay out of trouble. We both started crying, the light changed and I drove on.
I was priest or levite, but certainly not a good samaritan–just someone with all her reasons not to get involved, who just barely got to see a small speck of a person in the larger scope of things. Driving away, I was deeply haunted by the vulnerability, fear and sadness I saw in the young woman’s eyes. I considered getting back on 95, to come back through the exit, pick her up to bring home with me. With regret and lots of rationalizations, I told myself I simply couldn’t. But what we have seen we cannot un-see, including what we see about ourselves and our carefully measured generosity. Today I read an article that a FB friend had linked on her page, a fine article, well worth the time it takes to read. Especially, I loved the ee cummings poem, one I had never read before.
a man who had fallen among thieves by e. e. cummings
a man who had fallen among thieves
lay by the roadside on his back
dressed in fifteenthrate ideas
wearing a round jeer for a hat
fate per a somewhat more than less
had in return for consciousness
endowed him with a changeless grin
whereon a dozen staunch and leal
citizens did graze at pause
then fired by hypercivic zeal
sought newer pastures or because
swaddled with a frozen brook
of pinkest vomit out of eyes
which noticed nobody he looked
as if he did not care to rise
one hand did nothing on the vest
its wideflung friend clenched weakly dirt
while the mute trouserfly
confessed a button solemnly inert.
Brushing from whom the stiffened puke
i put him all into my arms
and staggered banged with terror through
a million billion trillion stars.
When I read it, I knew that’s what it would have been like, giving that girl shelter, I would have staggered with terror through a million billion trillion stars. That moment of seeing her broken heart: it was the universe I wished I could have given her.