I am navigationally challenged. Thanks to map apps, I get around okay in Houston. But apps are not much help when deciding the best parking garage to use in the Texas Medical Center.
I was thinking about that one day on my way to visit a parishioner in the hospital. A day when I also proved to be charitably challenged.
I had a lot on my mind – not least of which was that I’d parked in the wrong garage for my destination.
So, having parked the car and entered the nearest building, I made my way to the information desk of a friendly old man that I’d met once before under similar circumstances.
Back then, just like today, I was lost.
I said, “I need your help. How do I get to such and such hospital, this tower” (and so forth)?
He said, “Well, the easiest way would be to go back out that door, get in your car …”
My pride interrupted him: “No, I’ll walk,” I said.
“Okay, go out this door, head down the sidewalk to the third stoplight …” etc.
So, I did.
The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical center in the world with one of the highest densities of clinical facilities for patient care, basic science, and translational research. The Medical Center receives over five million annual patient visits, including over ten thousand international patients. In 2006, the center employed over 75,000 people, including 4,000 physicians and 11,000 registered nurses.
That day, as I made my way down the sidewalk, there were people bustling all about in multicolored Scrubs and white lab jackets.
Then there was me, the man in black, walking in my rapid pace through the bustling throng.
“Good morning, Father.”
I had a lot on my mind. I was thinking about having parked so far away, how hot it was …
“Good morning, Father.”
… the person I was going to see in the hospital, the one who was dying across town … what was for dinner …
“I said, Good morning, Father.”
“Morning” – I mumbled, sort of under my breath. (I promise, I did!)
Bums. They’re everywhere in a big city. Here they were sitting across this little wall that lined the sidewalk.
Where was I? Oh – yeah. I had a lot on my mind; hurry to see this gal … run over later to see the other one.
“I said, good morning, Father!”
Good grief! Is that the beggar still yelling after me?
Keep walking, I thought. Just keep moving.
“I said, good morning, Father!”
Now, y’all, this was getting ridiculous.
Without thinking, I turned ‘round and said, “I said, GOOD MORNING!”
It was like slow motion. All eyes were on me, the gray, wasted eyes of the old beggar, those bedraggled looking few who sat with him – even the Professionals in scrubs and white jackets (who seemed to have multiplied to 4 million).
All of ‘em.
Staring at the mean ol’ man in black.
I quickly turned and continued my way, thinking: “Well, you sure blew that one, didn’t ya!”
Oh, sure. Part of me – that other voice in my head – tried to justify my actions. But the rest of me wasn’t buying it.
Soon, I was in the cold air-conditioned environs of the hospital.
Smiling faces who did not know what a Meany I was, saying things like, “Good morning” … “Hi” … and “Father.”
My smile and response felt fake. Hypocritical.
Alone in the elevator on the way up to the room, I quickly fished out my wallet hoping that I had some money in there. Hoping that, good grief … please don’t tell me that all I have is a TWENTY.
I had two bills: a ONE and a FIVE.
In hopes of redeeming myself when I had to pass the beggar’s block on my long walk back to the parking garage, I decided I’d give the ol’ guy a ONE.
Then, thinking to find some sympathy from the ailing parishioner whom I was visiting, I related the event as I was setting up to give her Communion.
Instead of forgiving me, even justifying me, she looked at me with a mix of sorrow and empathy. I knew what I had to do.
On my way back down the elevator I reopened my wallet and took out the FIVE.
Then, on second thought, I combined the ONE and the FIVE.
That’s it! I’ll give the beggar everything I have. My Widow’s Mite.
SIX whole dollars.
As I headed toward the hospital’s exit, it dawned on my prideful self that the same faces – those seemingly 8,000,000 eyes would now witness my beneficence. In short, that proved the least of my worries.
For when I got outside … UNBELIEVABLE!
The sidewalk was empty. Not only were the hustlers and bustlers gone, so were the beggars.
It was just the man in black taking his long, lonely stroll down the sidewalk, looking right, and left, only to catch his multiplied reflections in the hospital windows; totally caught up in the present, hoping to redeem himself.
To no avail.
The past was gone. The present wasn’t presenting as he’d hoped.
I put the six bucks back in my wallet and headed back to church.
I hate to sound like some sappy email FORWARD, but I wondered …
No, I was sure!
It was providential. I’d come face to face with Christ and blown it.
Ain’t that the way?
I’d said my prayers that morning, put on my professional Christian clothes, and was on my way to visit an ailing parishioner in the hospital … and then
Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! This is a test.
For the next 60 seconds the Sovereign is conducting a test of the Emergency Salvation System …
My mind raced.
What if I’d passed the beggar, gotten frustrated (as I had) by his continual “Good Morning” … turned and, “I said, ‘Good Morning!”
Only to be hit by a bus.
And then … as I swim through the ether making my way toward the bright white light, a big omnipresent voice says: “Good Morning!”
And I yell: I ALREADY SAID GOOD MORNING! HOW MANY TIMES I GOTTA …
Well, you get the picture.
Coming soon to a bookstore near you:
Fr Joseph Goes to Hell
Mumble Good Morning, Save Six Bucks!
How NOT to be a Christian
By Fr Joseph Huneycutt
Maybe I should write those works under a pseudonym. Ya think?
Thank God I didn’t have to deliver a speech for that summer’s Oratorical competition.
The theme for the contest was taken from the Anaphora prayers said during the Divine Liturgy:
“Be mindful, O Lord, of those who bear fruit and do good works in thy holy Churches, and who remember the poor.”
And I was FULL of ideas! (At least, ideas for someone else.)
One of my ideas was for my teenager to stop and – I’d spot a few bucks – give some money to a beggar and then get their name to pray for them.
I said, “You could say, ‘I’d like to include you in my prayers. My name’s Mary Catherine. What’s your name?’”
She said, “Dad … ummm. Trust me, my name’s going to be SARAH!”
Touché. She did have a point there.
In my own hypocrisy, I mused that it would be cool if one of the teens admitted that THEY were the poor. In other words, actions speaking louder than words; if an orator was to admit that THEY were the ones who needed help … THEY were the ones in need of your prayers …
That’d be a way to put a new spin on it.
Still. I hear that voice: “I said, Good Morning, Father.”
The Oxford English Dictionary says that the phrase “Good Morning” comes from “God give you good morning” – the same for “good evening” and “good night.”
GOD give you good ________________.
There’s also “Goodbye” which is shorthand for: “God be with ye.”
Alas, I hadn’t even yelled “Goodbye” to the beggar.
Rather, I’d said something like: “God give you a good morning! –Ninny, Nanny, Boo-Boo!
Which leads me to this:
St John Chrysostom said: “When you are weary of praying and do not receive, consider how often you have heard a poor man calling, and have not listened to him.”
“When you are weary of praying and do not receive, consider how often you have heard a poor man calling, and have not listened to him.”
In all sincerity, God give you GOOD DAY!
And do pray. Pray for the poor. Pray for the poor souls out there.
And pray for me. The belittled bum.
BTW. My name is … uh, SARAH.
[Taken from an old Orthodixie podcast from back in the day.]