Ash Wednesday’s Angel

She was slender, in a coat too big for her and with a mop of dark hair in need of a good brushing. She might have been a small ten year old, and it was clear English was her second language as she handed me a note and asked, “Please you help?”

Paul’s eyebrow rose above the frame of his glasses as I took the folded scrap of notebook paper, soft and with a small wear-hole forming in the middle from many foldings and un-foldings. To paraphrase the contents, someone was ill, they needed a place to stay, any amount of money would help.

I hadn’t been approached by a child begging since visiting Rome in 2000, where I’d been warned to avoid getting swarmed by Roma children. So it seemed incongruous to encounter one at Firehouse Subs on Ash Wednesday, in Frisco, Texas, USA.

“Where…?” I started to ask the girl, and she gestured out the door where I could just make out the figure of a woman and two smaller children. I gave Paul the note, and he returned it unread to the girl, his eyebrow now approaching his hairline as he saw me wavering.

“Do you have any cash?”

“Some.” The eyebrow descended, he was now regarding me with wry amusement. He handed the girl the $10 in his wallet. She scampered out the door, and I watched as the woman sent her into another fast food place in the center. I didn’t recall seeing her approach anyone else in Firehouse; something  has brought beggars to me since I was old enough to earn money.

“You’re a good person,” Paul told me.

“‘…without knowing, some have entertained angels….'” I paraphrased, badly.  “All I did was give a little girl $10 of your cash while stuffing back a Hook & Ladder Fully Involved.” We bused our table,  and made it through the door of church with two minutes to spare.

The readings were long, and I thought someone should have had a glass of water for Jan, who did a beautiful job with the Old Testament and the Psalm. But Isaiah had me repressing a giggle and it was my turn to launch an eyebrow pointedly heavenward at Paul:

…Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, cover them….  if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted then your light shall rise in the darkness….

“Ya know,” I whispered at Paul, “I cannot remember another time when God sent a specific scriptural reinforcement quite so soon. God must really love you.”




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