My wife had gone to the dog park with neighbors and their dogs and I decided to go out and take photographs, walking around for 90 minutes or so as I often do. As I walked passed the house on the corner, there were a lot of people around, cars trying to park, and I finally saw the yellow hand-drawn signs saying “estate sale.” There were things lined up on the lawn, containers filled with toys and school supplies, Christmas lights and decorations, children’s books and furniture. I knew from walking the dog late in the day that the woman who lived there had a daycare, and frequently parents in very expensive vehicles were often double-parked, picking up their children. She appeared to be in her forties, was quite obese, had bright dyed-blond hair, and was very loud – you could hear her “speaking” a block away. But I must say that I frequently smiled at how much she cared for the children in her care and how much they cared for her, and likewise the parents. These little children would run to hug her, and they would wave to her from the car. But as I passed, I had to move into the street because the street was crowded with people rummaging through containers. I thought, “Who needs other people’s junk?”
I got home and was reading when my wife came in with assorted spices she picked up at the farmer’s market, and she had a small bag of school supplies. I said, “You bought other people’s junk!” She said, “There is an estate sale up the street, the woman who had the daycare died suddenly.” WHAT! “What happened? I just saw here a few days ago.” “They just said she died suddenly, and her parents and brother are selling her things to help pay for her funeral.” And it is in these nauseating moments I am the Pharisee, and the shallowness of my charity, and the depths of my sickening judgmental mind is shown to me like a horror film. And I sat down at my desk, and in the corner of the screen is a still unsaved “An interview with Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios by Pavel Chirila, Professor and Doctor at St Irene’s Hospital in Bucharest (Romania)”:
I was ashamed. I told my wife I was walking over to the house, and it was a very long walk of a half-block. I felt like a fool, and I was, and thankfully there were very few people left. The “house” is part of a “row” of very small one-bedroom constructions built with military personnel in mind, and they are numerous in my neighborhood. Her home, in fact, was given over to her daycare. I went to the older people I correctly presumed to be her parents, and I started to tell them my story: I had never met her, never spoken to her, “you know how it is these days…” blah, blah, blah, bullshit. And they smiled, nodded, and my voice started to crack, and my heart was pounding, and I started to cry, and I simply told them about the happiness of the those small children. From there I have no idea what I said except I was sorry for their loss, I would pray for her and them, and I would try to stop back tomorrow. I cried on my way home, and then it struck me: I never asked her name. I must go back.
ADDENDUM: Her uncle told me her name was Mary Lou. I would ask you, if you are so inclined, to say a prayer for her and her family