There is a little old lady who often begs at the front door to my apartment bloc. I simply can't give her anything, because she'll keep coming back if I do. This hurts. She carries a bit of card with her sorry tale written on it and I don't doubt it is true. There are many beggars on the streets here and most of them are little old ladies.
Then the Gospel story of Lazarus and Dives starts to sear itself to my soul. What fate will befall me for not giving to the beggar at my door? What can I do?
I'm getting into the routine of walking from which ever church I have attended for the Sunday liturgy to the Italian Church. It is on my way home and its layout is reassuringly Catholic. There is a statue there of St Rita too and we need the odd chat. This was the first Sunday the walk was actually pleasant. The weather it not quite as hot as it was. Anyway, in the church is a statue of St Anthony and a box for "his poor". I've taken to going in and leaving a high denomination note in the box. And that for now is quieting my conscience, I'm letting the Church decide who are the deserving poor, I'm letting the Church distribute as She sees fit. The Italians simply have somewhere convenient for me to leave my beggar tax.
Slightly less pitiful than the beggars are the little old ladies who make a living squatting by the side of the road selling a few flowers, vegetables or herbs. Good quality florists are plentiful and actually better value than these women, but once again, they pull at my heart strings and I will buy a bunch of flowers off them for Our Lady.
The apartment is full of little niches and alcoves for things. They are great for icons and I earned instant respect from my landlady for having Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in the largest alcove. She gets the flowers and with them my prayers for all the little old ladies that could be so easy to ignore in this city.
Little old ladies were once pretty young girls with dreams. Of all the citizens of this city, it is the young women who irk me the most. They can be quite unpleasant and in a country that places extraordinary emphasis on politeness, they are rude. The locals just smile and say things like "huh, they think they are American, they watch too much television, they'll grow up". Maybe they will. Though I do wonder whether if in all their wannabe designer gear and underneath all that overbearing make-up they are actually considerably poorer then the old ladies who have so little.