As the bus rolled past the market, I strained my neck to try to catch a glimpse of the fruit being sold today. Tumba bisilu – jasti bisilu – idde (it’s so hot – too hot) and the last thing I wanted to do was to walk 1.5 km carrying my week's worth of fruit. On the other hand, if I didn’t buy it today I would have to buy from a grocery store later on in the week, and I much prefer buying it direct. Plus, I tell myself, what would be better on a day like today than an ice cold fruit smoothie when I get home?
We rolled through the signal and around the corner, and I was the first to hop off, dodging the passengers overeager to board. I retraced the bus’s steps and my fruit farmer spotted me before I spotted her; there was no turning back now. The table was plain fruit; nothing too exotic: 2 pineapples, 3 cantaloupes, 20 sweet limes (Uffda! 20?), a plate of black grapes, and – finally – bananas.
Halfway through our conversation, I became aware of an old woman in a red sari behind me. Standing, watching, waiting. She had her hand extended, quietly, and I knew what she was asking for.
Knowing how to interact with beggars is often a struggle for me in this “developing” and “corrupt” country, as it probably is for others, too. Foreigners are told to ignore begggars; they may be pimped out, they may be enslaved, they should be in school instead and giving to them only encourages the system. However, Scripture says not to shut your hand from your brother in need; and, may I add, once you look into the eyes of a beggar, your life will never be the same. Bananas are some of the most practical foods to share, and today my farmer friend had given me more thank I had asked for. When I turned around, I placed the bananas in the woman’s hand. She lifted her eyes to mine in thanks, and I smiled into hers, then walked away.
I often struggle after giving to the poor – how am I supposed to feel? Proud of myself for doing something good? Down on myself because I know that I can never do enough? Because I fumble for a 2 rupee coin with one hand while holding my iPhone in the other? After buying some spinach I began my walk home in the dusty evening light and reached up to finger the pendant hanging from my neck: the widow’s mite. I bought the mite in Jerusalem nearby the temple ruins; it is a relic of the story of the widow who came to the temple and was giving her offering at the same time as the Pharisee. The Pharisee gave in all his gold and his glory, but the woman gave humbly and gave everything that she had to live on. The Pharisee gave out of his excess, but the widow gave out of her poverty.
I gave this woman a bundle of bananas that I didn’t need; they were extra. Because of who I am, where I come from, the manner in which I am employed, giving of food isn’t a sacrifice and, Lord willing, never will be. I eat simply, yes, but never have to wonder where my next meal will come from. Heck, I have the luxury of deciding if I am going to buy my produce from the farmer or the grocery store, and the choice of shopping later if I am feeling too lazy to lug it home. How – how – can I give out of my poverty? Give sacrificially? Give in a way that is not self-centered, give with wisdom and love? That is the question of my heart this Palm Sunday. Because the widow at the temple isn’t the only one who gave – Jesus did, too.