Dirty Pretty Money


photo by E. Herd

In Grand Central Station:

I gave a buck to the accordionist who plays “La Vie en Rose,” “Lara’s Theme” and gypsy tunes.

I gave a buck to the violinist with a sign on his wheelie cart that says “Need money to get my wife a liver.”

I gave a buck to the harpist who looks Eastern European and has a warm smile. He plays “Cielito Lindo” and some tunes I don’t know.


I gave several bucks to the Marine Vet on the street who used to be bundled up and stationed on the grates at the northwest corner of 42nd and Lex. We talked for a while. He said he was shot up in Afghanistan, lost his home and his family, got slashed and robbed at a homeless shelter and wouldn’t go back. I saw him for weeks during the winter, then was afraid to make eye contact. He looked worse and worse each time I saw him. He didn’t look up anymore. I felt like a bad person for avoiding him, not being able to help. Since I really can’t help, why talk to him, I reasoned to myself. I felt powerless to help, ashamed even. I don’t see him anymore. I wonder where he’s gone.

Giving away a couple bucks here and there won’t change anything.

I think I can do more.

I have to figure out how in our new Gilded Age.

Pope Francis, My Hero

pope francis

(source: newsfirst.lk)

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.
            Mrs. Cecil Frances Humphrey Alexander

Pope Francis never ceases to amaze me, and in a good way. He is the most all-embracing, open-hearted pope in my recollection. He has been a steadfast advocate for open-mindedness towards people and causes often scorned in our society—the LGBT community, the poor, migrants, abortion rights. He has called the Catholic Church “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception.

Today he has called for a “global mobilization” to end human trafficking.

Last week he joined leaders of the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian faiths, promising to use their religions towards eradicating “modern slavery” and human trafficking by 2020.

When Pope Francis was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was known to sneak out at night and break bread with the poor; he would sit on the street and eat with them, let them know they were cared for. The Pope’s trusted archbishop Konrad Krajewski is the Vatican Almoner, who has the a centuries-old job of handing out alms.  Krajewksi said,

“The Holy Father told me at the beginning: ‘You can sell your desk. You don’t need it. You need to get out of the Vatican. Don’t wait for people to come ringing. You need to go out and look for the poor.’ ”

It’s been said that Francis sometimes disguises himself as a priest and sneaks out to serve the homeless with Krajewski.

Every morning a Vatican official goes from the Vatican hotel where Francis lives to Krajewski’s office with a pile of letters the Pope has received from parishioners asking for assistance. On the top of each letter, Francis may write “You know what to do” or “Go find them” or “Go talk to them.”

In his weekly address last month, the Pope declared, “All animals go to heaven.”

Whether you believe in a heaven or not, it’s a wonderful sentiment. Why shouldn’t one’s furry loved ones follow them into the afterlife?

He said, “Heaven is open to all creatures, and there [they] will be vested with the joy and love of God, without limits.”

Francis goes further to say that humankind’s role is not limited to serving the divine:

“The vocation of being a ‘protector,’ however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as St. Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Pope Francis ran for Congress? Maybe he could get some real work done. Sorry, had to add my two cents.

He is a reminder of what we all can be, religious or not, and of the good that can be found in all of us.