Posted January 22, 2016:
Is This a Way of Praying?

by Cristina Coutinho.

Big city with its noise, cars, and people. I like to walk the streets and look around. Is this a way of praying?

I see the hurried steps, the hidden smiles, the worried looks. Are they afraid of not arriving on time for work or wherever they are going?

Why are they rushing? Why in me this desire to know where they are going?

A shape came forth in the somber light of the hurrying crowd. I could not take my eyes off her—a poor woman walking in slow motion. Age? Fatigue? Weight? Everything seemed to break her walking. I followed her from a safe distance, far enough away to avoid her eyes.

The street did not receive well this heavy woman indifferent to the speed around her. But although her motions were strange, she seemed to be at home. She was carrying two big bags that surely contained most of her belongings, her treasures, her life. There is no luxury in the weight of poverty.

Suddenly, she sat down on a step in front of the door of a lawyer’s office. Yes, this was a street with many offices of this kind—some beautiful old houses and some glassy big modern buildings.

There she was, sitting down…What was she doing there? Resting? Taking time? Taking a breath?

I continued to walk and just as I passed her, I saw urine running down the cement sidewalk. I tried not to step in it. It was then that I could not avoid being caught by her eyes. We were both discovered.

I ran, wanting to erase her from my sight. After all, I too had an appointment. And I did not want to be late.

I was relieved to be able to run. Yes, I arrived on time—and so I thought I was all right.

But on my way back down that same street I lost heart when I saw the now-familiar shape walking in my direction. I was stopped by an inability to move on. Looking straight into my fear, she came right up to my paralyzed self.

From her whole body came a clearly articulated word murmured with the strength of accumulated pain: "Difficult" …

The word echoed in me, and I gave it back to her. Receiving it as mine, she liberated me. Then she continued on her way of pain, and I walked on my way, slowly now.

When I passed the front of the door of the lawyer’s office, I smelled the strong odor of the yellow stain not yet washed away.

It was then that my burning tears ran free. Is this a way of praying?


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