edited: Tuesday, October 08, 2002
By Arsenio C Jesena
Posted: Tuesday, October 08, 2002
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When I was 14, I was too late to be there
When I was 14 years old, an incident happened, an incident that fills me with tremendous shame even today.
I was walking home from school one afternoon when I noticed a crowd of people on the left side of the street. In my childish curiosity I went to investigate -- what were all those people staring at? So I elbowed my way from the outside to the center of the human circle.
And there I saw what everyone was staring at. It was a woman. It was a woman -- her hair, and her face were streaked with blood and mud and tears and pain. And from her dirty, muddy, bloody, filthy nest at the bottom of the canal she, DOLORES, looked up at us -- and in her unbearable agony she screamed in silence to everyone of us: “Please, Please help me. I need you!!!”
And what did those good Christian people -- so much like us -- what did they do? What did they do? One by one, they turned their backs….. and walked away. Yes. One by one they turned their backs. And walked away….. Everyone of them…
And I -- good Catholic and outstanding Atenean that I was… what did I do? To my everlasting shame, to my everlasting shame, I also turned my back. And walked away.
I was only 13 years old. My clothes were new, I did not want them to be dirtied by mud and tears and blood. I did not want waste my time testifying before the Police and before the lawcourts. I had only a few pesos with me. And I refused to waste my attention, my energy, my self on… on a total stranger. So what if she needed help? That was HER problem. I had no responsibility, no obligation to help her….. To get involved was to get entangled, to lose yourself. I had enough troubles of my own.
I share this shameful incident with you because there are so many parallelisms between what happened to me, and what is happening TO ALL OF US. I was walking home. We are all journeying home -- towards death, towards the end of life, towards God. And as we walk along the road of life, every single day, we see DOLORES, and a thousand other suffering, abandoned, Doloreses reaching out to us and screaming in silent agony -- “Please, please help me… I need you!!!”
Yes, my Brothers, my Sisters, my Friends… right now… you are walking down the road of life and your sun is shining and your clothes are clean and your wallet is not empty and perhaps you may even in love. And everyday, everyday, yes, everyday as you walk down the road of life, if you look hard enough, if you look hard enough you will notice a crowd -- an excited crowd, and they are staring at those who have fallen down the bloody, muddy canals of Misfortune and Pain and Suffering.… the nameless, countless victims of the angry, selfish, cruel, violent, volcano that is our world.
My friends, it is very easy to escape… it is very, very easy to escape. Easy to turn our back. And walk away. And do nothing to help. We can always rationalize and be neurotically prudent. We can even quote the Holy Bible to prove that God does NOT demand unreasonable martyrdom….. does not expect dangerous, uncomfortable, expensive, endless, useless involvement. After all, our first duty is to ourselves, and our own families!! Not some nameless, lazy, stupid, irresponsible beggar.
But… my friends… if you are honest and if you are true , can your conscience and your self-respect allow you to relax, safe and easy – while your brothers and your sisters and all the Doloreses of life scream out to you in the agony of their endless pain?
“Please, please help me. I cannot take it anymore. I NEED YOU. PLEASE HELP ME.”
I walked away from Dolores, when I was 13. But after three minutes of walking and thinking, I returned.
DOLORES WAS NO LONGER THERE.
My nobility, my heroism was late. Too late. Too late. And until now, I still wonder: how did Dolores disappear so fast? Did I just imagine her? Was Dolores real? Or a mirage? Or a message -- from mankind, -- or from my own innermost self.
OR -- was it….. was it GOD HIMSELF?? “Whatever you refuse to do for my poorest sister, you refuse to do for ME.” (Mt. 25/40)
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