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Arsenio C Jesena

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The Stinking Beggar
by Arsenio C Jesena   

Last edited: Thursday, June 12, 2003
Posted: Tuesday, June 10, 2003

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he never said a word,
he never gave his name ...
and I never saw him again .

The Stinking Beggar

Let me tell you a story------
A love story. It happened almost half a century ago
( when I was young, and full of hope).
And the love story does not involve sex nor passion.
No..our little love story may be chastely entitled –“ The Day God Touched Me” or
“ The Day I Touched God”.

It was the year 1957….1957.
Maybe it was the fault of our Ateneo de Davao Religion teachers or the Holy Jesuits, who gently and surreptitiously
tried to brainwash us.
But they had all preached
the Last Judgment, as found in Matthew ch 25, verses 31 to 41.

I was only 16 years old at that time.
I was living in Matina… at Juna Subdivision…. Acacia Street… Corner Calachuchi.

One afternoon, after coming home from the Ateneo in Jacinto, I was closing the gate at home in Acacia Street,
when I noticed a dirty beggar
…a dirty, stinking beggar
staring at me.
He was standing outside our gate, and he was staring, gently staring at me, as I was closing our gate.

That beggar ….he was really stinking –I mean – I stand here, and you sit all the way there, and that was the distance
between the beggar and me,
but I could smell his foul stench---
he was really, really stinking.

That beggar--- he looked as though he had not taken a shower for 100--- even 200 days- maybe even more… 6 months
maybe even more.
And of course, no washing, no changing of clothes, no brushing of teeth, no cutting of fingernails--- and no haircut.
Friend.. imagine you are face to face with this stinking beggar,
and you see him,
and he is getting closer, closer,
and closer to you .
How would YOU FEEL?..
and what would YOU DO?

Maybe you’d shrink away.
Maybe you would want to run away,
for you would be repelled by the sight and the smell of this approaching
stinking beggar

Imagine him, picture him,
this stinking beggar. He was not wearing the usual shirt and pants.
He was wearing RAGS...
RAGS which hung around his filthy body...tied around
his waist with some abaca string...
a thick layer of filth and grime caked over his thick, brown skin,and plastered in and over his filthy rags. No, the beggar was not clean.

He was not a decent, presentable human being. He was a repulsive, dirty,
filthy, stinking beggar

I was 16 years old.
In first year college.
How did I react as he approached me?
All my senses revolted.
Red lights flashing all within me,
my inner bells ringing, warning me!
Run away! Stay far from him,
run where it is safe! Have. nothing to do with this dirty, dangerous beggar.

But then that beggar
--- he looked at me. Simply, gently, he looked at me…looked at
my clean body and my clean clothes.

And his strange, haunting, deep eyes said,
“ Juni.. I know you... Yes. I know you...I have been looking for you...
And now I have found you.”

Maybe he had been seeking me…
for hundreds of centuries.

“ Juni. It is I. It is I Juni. It is I...
I am here. At last.”

What did I do?
I did something very dangerous.
I smiled at him… I smiled at him .. and I invited him, this nakakatakot beggar—
I invited him..…into my home.
Into my home. Right there in Matina,
In Acacia Street, corner Calachuchi
where beautiful fragrant rosal flowers bloomed in that year of Our Lord
nineteen nundred and fifty seven..

“ Sir,Pare, Brod, Bay.Please...please come in… Please, Brod, Bay.Come in.” And I remember
opening our gate for him.
The gate of our home in Acacia St.,
Juna Subdivision in Matina, Davao City.

“Come Sir.. please. Come with me.
I have something…. for you”

That beggar,
he did not say anything.
He only looked at me, and followed.
And we walked on the cement driveway, past the swings and the seesaw on the right, past the little merry, go-round, (the carousel) on the left.
Through the garage, then up the balcony on the east side of the house.
“Come, sir, hurry, please. Hurry
—they might see us.” For if the important people in the house,
if they had seen us,they might
have been upset,
and even angry.. at ME..
me inviting a dirty beggar into the house.

But Fury and Jean and Vixen
were not upset.
Those magnificent housedogs,
those German Shepherds were very calm, …they just looked at us.
They did not bite, they did not bark,
They did not scare the stinking beggar. Because I was with him.

We reached my room, the room with the strange , imposing chimney ... and the porthole... I opened my door..
I invited him in.
“ Sir… this is my room.
And you are welcome here… I have… some gifts for you. But first maybe’d like a nice, cool bath? ... Here is the soap my friend… and here the shower… the toilet is right there… Just feel at home.
I will be right here…
outside… waiting.. for you.”

I do not know how long the stinking beggar stayed there, inside my bathroom…
but… eventually, after a long, long time,
he emerged… smiling…

---now wearing his new shirt and new pants. Yes, he was smiling.
For he was clean, and new again.
And beautiful and human… AGAIN!

And I combed his long hair
and I sat close to him, and I got my nailcutter and I cut his long and dirty nails. And I got my new pair of socks
and put them on him.
Then I got my well-shined shoes
and I helped him put them on.
And I tied his shoelaces.
And you know what?
Throughout this whole time
HE was smiling and I was smiling.

And I could feel the warmth
of his genuine happiness. .

And me? I felt wonderful..
helping him rise again from death
and defeat… from the dirt and the garbage and the pus and the cancer
of his painful, wounded life

Yes, that despicable beggar,
he was clean again. Beautiful again.
Human again.

And I? My dear friends, I was so happy, and I did not care
that my clean bathroom was now filthy.
And I did not care that the nameless beggar had used my toilet inodoro and my bath soap and my towel and my colgate and maybe even my toothbrush, too.

And I did not care that he was going away with my new shoes and all my money.

Because everything – everything
we have – in reality belongs to God.

We are merely stewards
and all that is
is entrusted to us, so we can lovingly share them with those who need us
and our help in the beautiful family of Man, The Family of God.

That… that ex-stinking beggar –
He must have felt wonderful,
to feel clean again
to feel human again.

And to be touched
like a brother
And welcomed like a friend.

To be given maruya, and refreshing
Coca-Cola, near the Ateneo in Matina,
in that year nineteen hundred
and fifty seven.

Yes, it must have been
nice and cool, affirming and inspiring
to find out
that although he had been a beggar,
a repulsive, stinking beggar,
not everybody, not everybody
ran away from him –
for in this selfish , cruel fearful world,
he had just been welcomed
into a man’s home, and a man’s room,
and a man’s brotherly love.

Yes, the contemptible, abandoned beggar,
he had just been helped
to become, and to be, human again.

And if you, my friends, if you,
and I, had been in his place,
that stinking beggar,
we too would have been deeply touched, yes… and we too would have smiled again, the smile of a child of God.

That Stinking Beggar…
he never said a word,
he never gave his name… …
and I never saw him again.
But even right now,
45 years later, I still, and I do
remember HIM.
Yes I remember
how I walked with him from my room,
and how I put my arm
around his shoulder
as I strode with him through our garage, and through our driveway, past our seesaw
and our swings on the right, and our little merry-go-around on the left.

I remember
I unlocked our gate, that opened out to Acacia Street… and I remember
how I smiled and shook his hand,
and said goodbye
to that clean smiling MAN
for the last time.
And he, forever nameless, he looked at me with his deep, mysterious, brotherly,
grateful eyes.

Yes, I still remember.
I remember that Day of Love,
when the stinking beggar
passed through my life,
and I opened my doors to him,
and I welcomed him
and I touched HIM, and He touched me,
and I shared myself with Him

and He looked at me,
I… recognized Him -----

For Jesus says –
“ Whatever you do for my poorest brother, you do for ME!”

+++ JJ Jesena SJ
9 June 2003

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Reviewed by Nellie Feng 6/10/2003
A very moving recollection ...!!!
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