|©Ricardo Minetti & Anna Lazzarini|
Instead of a man dispensing alms to those in need, here we have a well-dressed woman interacting with people dressed in rags, with faces covered. I get the sense of sleeper community, shunned by others. Yet here is this woman, not only going among them, but even taking off a glove to touch a man, offering the gift of human kindness.
This card reminds us that generosity and charity come not only in the form of money, but perhaps more especially in what we dedicate our time and energy to. Also, perhaps, in whether we are willing to see the human in the other, rather than just the neediness.
As I write this, I am sitting on a train, and across from me is a man, drunk at 11:15 am on a work day. A part of me feels I should show him compassion, as this woman does with the lepers. He is talking to anyone and no-one, sometimes seeming almost normal, other times swearing violently, always making pointed comments about those around him (myself included), or others in the news. I feel empathy towards him, and wonder what has brought him to this situation. Yet I am also frightened of him, frightened to open up to him in any way, even to catch his eye or acknowledge his ranting.
I volunteer for a charity, and generally think of myself as a quite compassionate person, but alcoholism is one of my weak spots. My father was an alcoholic, and I find it incredibly difficult to deal with people who are drunk. I am sure there is an aspect where he is just doing the best he can, within his situation, even if from the outside it seems self-destructive and aggressive. Yet I cannot take that step to talk with him, validate his experience, offer him that human kindness.
I am grateful for the reminder that I still have room to grow as a human being.