Strange things have happened to me during the past 4 days – 2 merchants gave me free service.

  • There was a Home & Garden show at the Cincinnati Convention Center. Jim thought we should go to research replacement windows for our 100 year old house. I agreed and assumed this would be free since the exhibitors were trying to sell their services. I was wrong. On the way he told me admission was $13/person. Since this was an optional expenditure. I toyed with the idea of asking for a scholarship or discount. I knew this would probably be futile plus embarrassing to Jim, but I have little pride in such matters and figured it wouldn’t hurt to try. When at the ticket counter, however, the clerk looked at us and asked if we had an AARP card because if so, one of us could get in free! We did have to pay for parking but I figured that was a transportation expense and we parked at a meter rather than the $10 lot thus cutting our cost in half (my half 🙂 ).
  • Days 365+90 DVD LentToday I went to pick up a DVD that I had ordered just before Lent. We wanted to transfer movie footage from a 16mm camera that my parents had taken 60 years ago to a DVD format to show at my mother’s funeral next weekend. It was to cost $75. When I went into the store the clerk gave me the DVD but also read a message that said the film was so old, mildewed, and torn that the DVD was not up to their usual standards and I would not be charged anything for it. Wow! Again I hadn’t mentioned my Lenten commitment or that it was for a funeral.

Days 357 Extra - Near DeathThese two incidents may be coincidental but their proximity to my mother’s recent death and another incident that happened today is uncanny if not miraculous.

  • The other incident happened on my way to church today. As I’ve been reflecting about my somewhat artificial commitment to not buy anything during Lent unless it is absolutely essential, I thought that probably I should also increase my almsgiving. (If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I am basically a very frugal person.) I rarely give money to panhandlers. But I was reading one of Bishop Untener’s “Little Black Book” meditations this morning about the “poor poor.” I decided that I needed to not just give to charitable organizations but to also loosen up and give money to a “street person.” The route I usually take to church passes the Cinti. Reds baseball stadium. Every time I drive by I see a different man with a sign next to the curb asking for help. I usually uncomfortably avoid eye contact and ignore the “man of the day.” I decided that during Lent I would give some cash to whomever was there when I drove by. I was ready. I had my bill. I looked for a man with a sign. It was cold and beginning to rain. No man. There was construction on the usual corner. Then I looked across the street and saw a man on another corner with a sign. I drove around the block and handed him the bill. I’m now committing to do this each time I go to the parish during Lent. Ironic that this happens on my way to church, isn’t it.

So, I don’t know if Mom is lobbying merchants from beyond, or if the panhandler is Jesus in disguise and sending extra grace my way. Still I’m choosing to think of my windfalls as meant for others and as the mysterious presence of God around me during this holy season.

What’s this got to do with being in solidarity with the poor? Read my next blog post, “Why I’m not poor” for more.