Last night I met an angel. Truly I did. This is not a miracle, quite the opposite. Angels are everywhere, on the streets, walking here and there. They often emerge in situations that, if you think about it right, become testing, of your character, your priorities, your sense of goodness.
Rivoli street in Paris is full of homeless folk. They string around the pavement. They pee everywhere, shout abuse, carry diseaseÖI think. Do they? Not sure. One of them is particularly bonkers, talks to himself, or rather, to someone else, an imaginary friend. Quite engaged conversation. Animated, sometimes takes place in the middle of the boulevard, amid passing cars. He is often alone, and usually when another homeless chap joins him, he sits there, and does not talk. He stares.
Lately, though, he has found a friend, a human person, homeless I think. Bearded, a sort of Robin Williams-friendly character, who laughs, shouts funny remarks at passers by, and actually seems to get through to this chap. I suddenly began to think, remembering an old Wim Wenders movie about Berlin, that this was an angel. That in fact most homeless people are angels, envoys, watching, checking, testing, reporting back.
Last night I was taking cash from a machine. A homeless chap was sitting there, eyeing me for money. Sometimes I give, sometimes I don't. When I don't, often it is with a scowl, a dismissive gesture, walking away, trying to pretend I don't give a shit. "Go get a job" or some such thought occurs to me.
Sometimes if I do give, it is out of drunken generosity or some kind of giving thing. To feel good. I remember handing a young chap in a sleeping bag on a streeting in London's Soho about 20 quid once. He couldn't believe it.
Last night it was different, because I decided to view the person differently. As an agent, a person, and therefore a body of energy, light and consciousness, recording, testing, watching. The chap was weather-beaten, tanned, mid-40s, bright, lively blue eyes. I had a euro. I had a two-euro piece too. Which would I give?
A debate began in my head. One euro will do. Don't be so mean, give him two. Each coin represented an argument, a justification, and piece of conscience. I finally decided to give him both, rather in Soloman style judgement, that the coins embody the wrong kind of thinking, about generosity, giving, tightness, selfishness, and both should be given.
Goodness is not some saintly smile, some goofey "chosen one" stuff. It is simply doing the right thing. And crucially, there is no reward.
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