It was a beautiful day. I had just finished my one class of the day and – that’s enough for it to be a beautiful day, no? Hahha the cherry on top, it was sunny out, I was feeling good, and I’m in Barcelona. Life is A-OK.
On my way down the street, a slightly busy street, I saw a man kneeling facing away from the street. In front of him was a little paper cup. I had never seen that before, someone kneeling for money. It was quite possibly the humblest image I’d ever seen. He wasn’t begging or pleading, just simply kneeling and ready to receive what would come his way. I walked past him.
Here’s a little about me. I don’t really have a heart for the homeless and less fortunate. I’m just being real honest here in my corner of cyberspace. This is just me. I understand there are people in the world with less than me and I acknowledge them. However, I’m not really the person to throw down money. I’m not saying I’m indifferent, because I can be moved. It just has to be very compelling and worthy in my eyes. Back to the story.
About 15 feet down the street after passing him, I became aware of a very quiet nudge within. I couldn’t “read” or “hear” it, I just knew what it meant. I tried justifying it away – “I’m already too far down the street” (no I wasn’t), “I don’t have money” (give what you have, not everything), and so on – until I had justified away my justifying hahaha. I had peace and immediately turned around. I approached him,
“¿Tienes hambre?” (Are you hungry?)
“¿Quieres un bocadillo?” (Do you want a sandwich?)
“¿Qué tipo te gustaría?” (What kind would you like?)
“Ok, un momento.”
I hurried up the street where I had come to a small cafe/restaurant and ordered a ham sandwich. I walked back to him, and handing it to him, I asked,
“¿Cómo te llamas?” (What’s your name?)
“Ah, me llamo Grace. No es mucho pero disfrútalo por favor.” (My name is Grace. It’s not much but enjoy it.)
“Gracias, encantado.” (Thanks, it was nice meeting you.)
“Yo también, adiós.” (Me too, goodbye.)
And that was that. I continued on my way that beautiful day, glad I was fortunate enough to do something for someone, albeit little it was.
Fast forward to yesterday, about a week later. I had wanted to visit a church across town and decided to walk the 40 minutes to get there rather than take the metro.
Another beautiful day. There weren’t many people on the street and I was enjoying the weather and the fact that I was going to a church service. About 15 minutes away from arriving at the church, I neared a patisserie and… someone familiar sitting a little past the entrance. Even before I got close, I knew who it was. I sort of buried my memory of him and thought to myself, I don’t need to do something this time and I gotta get to church. I didn’t want to struggle with the thought of spending money; as a college student, it’s a given condition to be painfully aware of a dwindling bank account and flourishing credit card debt. I just wanted to be on my way and escape the guilt or burden masked by piety.
Again, I passed by him. And again, the quiet nudge. I really don’t know how to explain how it felt. Honestly, I attribute it to God. Lol. Seems obvious to some but I know I am a foolish girl sometimes. And who knows? It could have just been me… feeling extra compassionate? I don’t know. Anyway. I made the decision to trust and believe, and like deja vu,
“¿Hola, tienes hambre?”
“¿OK, te gustaría café, café con leche?” (Would you like coffee with milk?)
“Ok, un momento.”
I dropped in the patisserie and ordered two cafe con leches, two croissants, and a baguette. I balanced everything in my hands and went back out. After handing him the breads and his coffee, I asked if I could sit a bit with him (“sí”) and dropped my backpack on the side and took a seat next to him on the sidewalk.
Facing the street, we drank our coffee, his with sugar, mine without. I told him about the nudge and about how I thought it was God. I asked if he remembered me, to which he answered yes. We chatted about life, well, I wouldn’t say it was as light as “chatted” but we talked and I got to hear about his story and I got to share a little about mine.
Turns out he’s 18, from Romania, without family or friends in Barcelona, and had been here for 6 months. He asked what I was doing here and I told him I was studying abroad and that I’m from California.
During the conversation, I was mildly aware of the stares I got from the people passing by. They averted their eyes when I caught them. One old man reached out a hand and dropped me a euro, which I passed on to Florin. After a while, I didn’t notice and I was just having a conversation with a good friend. Except the cement floor was super cold.
It didn’t matter that I had wanted to go to service earlier; by the time I picked up my backpack and left, it was 30 minutes past the start of service. My resolve to attend dissolved with the exchange. Besides, there was another one at 12. Before I left, I asked if I could pray for him really quick and in my broken Spanish, I asked God for good things for Florin, mind, body, and soul. He was cool about it.
I walked away like nothing happened, like it wasn’t a big deal sitting down with someone I only knew because I had bought food for him before. Yet I walked away completely different. I don’t know. I really want to do something for him. Before I went on my way, I gave him 10 euros for food later. But what does that do, besides feed him for a moment? It’s great that that’s a few less meals he had to worry about, but what about the rest of his days? He would still have to go back to the same. What would 10 euros mean then? And even if I gave him 100 euros, it would be the same, ultimately. 1000 euros, I still feel the same.
All the way home after church, I contemplated what I could do for him. I could give him an ear to listen to his pain and struggles, but could I attend, or attempt to attend, to his other needs, needs that were as simple as having a shelter, getting a job, and engaging in a community? I want to do something. I just have no idea. I’ve never done anything like this. I’m normally a very apathetic person, indifferent to causes and whatnot. I like doing my own thing, keeping to myself. But I was so challenged. Because as little as I am, I feel like there’s at least something I can do that can give Florin an opportunity to a better life. Not saying I’m so powerful, but I have a little more than he does in terms of resources, access to information, etc. If I used what I had right, it could mean something good for another person. But what?
And that is how this story concludes. It is a little satisfying and very unsatisfying. I brought it up with my good friend who I felt was better than me at championing causes. From her response, I got that maybe I could look into the job search process here in Spain. I would definitely need to find out more of Florin’s status, whether he has his documents, etc. We had exchanged contact information because I hadn’t wanted it to end with that conversation. I got his mobile number and I gave him my email for when he has the opportunity to create one and my US address for when he has a place with an address of his own. He didn’t answer his phone when I called earlier today to find out if we could meet and I could learn more about his situation. I’ll try again tomorrow.
I have no idea man. I’m just one person. So inadequate in so many ways. But if I could really really do something to help this guy out… it would be amazing. I just don’t know how or what. We’ll see.
Life is a trip.