It’s a Sunday when I actually woke up early to get ready for church and a wedding to follow. I took time to make up nicely because right after mass, I have to rush to get the hubby and kid for the in-law wedding.
Got there earlier than usual and the sun was shining bright and hot. At the car park, John was struggling in his deformed self. I had written about John many times. Few weeks ago, before Raya, I met him in Komtar. I lovingly ‘scolded’ him because he didn’t get a hair cut, didn’t bath for a while and was looking really messy.
How many times have I lovingly explained to him that he must make an effort to keep his hair short and clean, bath so that he doesn’t smell bad and people won’t stay away from him? But he is like a kid and sometimes, he gives me sheepish grin to tell me that he knows. But he didn’t do it anyway.
This morning, I was trying do a reverse parking while John is waiting for me. He was holding an envelope. When I got down, he told me he wants money. He always want money from me. I spoilt him, I usually give him because I don’t see why not. People told me he always spend on unnecessary and wasted the money. But then, what’s a few bucks to me?
Normally, I will stuff the money deep into his pocket. His fingers and hands are gnarled and even putting money into a pocket is difficult for him. He walks with a terrible sway because of his deformed legs. You can’t understand his speech because even his face is all crooked. If you are not careful, his saliva will spray on you when he tried to muster those words out.
But I guess God has conditioned me well. I don’t smell the awful smell from him and I actually can hear very clearly what he said. He said he wants money to place in the petition. I don’t know what you call that but we have envelopes from the church office. If you want a prayer, or thanksgiving, you put RM10 into it, write what/who you want prayed for, and the names will be flashed on the overhead projector.
Ya ya ya, I know it is quite strange for you non-Catholics. That it costs RM10 for a prayer. But that goes into our church coffer, ok?
I opened the evelope I took from his hand. There is already a ten bucks inside. He said he want ten dollah, I want to pray for my mother and father.’ (I knew John’s history through some folks) I said, ‘Got money liao, no need lah, I so poor wor, give you ten already, no more lor’. I was joking with him only, actually.
He looked desperate. I told him, ‘OK lah….come I write for you’ So, I wrote ‘Prayer for the souls of John’s father and mother’. I know it will take me forever to get both their names out of John’s mouth. It was so hot in the car park and the glare was killing me.
We went our separate ways. Me into the church. He hobbling to the church office. I did think, ‘Hmmm…where to find such faith?’ I bet if he puts an empty envelope into the petition, my church office will still honour John’s request.
I am also reminded. 24th September is my Vincent’s 10th birthday. Previous years, I always prayed for his soul too. But recent years, I have stopped. I did thought of placing an envelope like John did. But I didn’t. I suppose my faith is not as strong as John’s.
John may be severely handicapped. A dirty, smelly hobo in the public’s eyes. An annoyance sometimes to our ‘praying Catholics’. A pesky persistent boy (he is 20 plus but very small frame) who asked for money whenever you are a bit warm up to him.
But to me, each time I see him, I see God’s loving Grace. John is just like one of us. He has his issues. Though I can’t share those, I can tell he is regretting some pasts, he is still not forgiving himself for the mistakes he think he has done. In that gnarled and maybe many will say ugly body (think Hunchback of Notre Dam, he is something like that), a soul lives, just like ours.
He has his happy moments. He has his disappointing moments. Moments when the public and sometimes, very sadly, our supposedly good Catholics rejected him, dismissed him from our rosy, orderly arrangements and yet, he picks himself up, because he believes in Jesus.
At communion, he fell to his knees to receive the Lord. He struggled hard to get up again. He has dignity many of us don’t.
My life is uplifted, strengthen and I thank God for watching over people like John.