01 June, 2008

A fast to which I was not called

Shortly after I entered the Catholic Church fourteen years ago, I took up the habit of visiting daily Mass. I would walk twenty minutes to church for the 7am Mass, then twenty minutes back home. This was Flagstaff, AZ, where I was studying at Northern Arizona University for my eventual Master's Degree.

One day in late Spring I emerged from the Church of the Nativity to a beautiful blue sky and wonderful green trees. I crossed the road and nodded a greeting to a man and a boy. They looked Navajo; Navajo are not an uncommon sight in Flagstaff. I had a few of them as students when I taught College Algebra; they were unfailingly polite, but not often successful.

Excuse me, mister? the man asked. He sounded Navajo. Can you spare a dollar? I need it for bus fare for me and my son.

It just so happened that I had a dollar and fifty cents in my pocket. I didn't want to give it to him, though. I needed the dollar to buy bread. It was almost the end of the month, and I wouldn't have money again until payday. I suspect that I had peanut butter, jam, cereal, and enough milk for one day's breakfast, but not much else, because I do recall being aware that if I gave him my dollar, I'd go hungry for a couple of days.

I gave him the dollar and walked away.

I'd like to say that I turned around a moment later and they were no longer there, as if they were angels or something. But I don't remember that, so the story won't take that turn. I went home, poured myself a bowl of cereal, read the newspaper, and gathered my books to go to the office.

I resided at Blackbird Roost, in the shadow of Mars Hill, and a short walk from the university. You can see it here.

I crossed US-66 and headed east towards Milton Road. Flagstaff warms up significantly during the day, but it can be quite windy. The wind blows around a lot of dust, and even a summer morning can start chilly enough to require a light jacket, while the afternoon is toasty.

On this particular morning, a slip of paper flapped towards me and landed at my feet. The wind paused long enough for me to look down at it. It was a one dollar bill.

I have lived thirty-six years, and only once has money fallen at my feet. It happened on the same day that, moments after leaving church, I gave a man my last dollar, without which I could not have bought food.


Elliot said...

That's quite something!

jack perry said...

Needless to say, I was amazed. The few months after I was received into the Catholic Church was a very graced period.

Vincent Wong said...

Oh come on, you could survive a few days on nothing but cereal and peanut butter! Heck, you even had penaut butter. While I was in college, in a similar situation as yours, all I had was cereal, sugar and powdered milk!

jack perry said...


I had cereal only for one day's breakfast only, and not enough to last several days. If I had, you'd be right; it would have been easy.

Vincent Wong said...

Oh, thanks for clarifying. To God be the Glory!