FROM THE HEART IT HAS COME TO THE HEART IT SHALL GO
“You often say, ‘I would give, but only to the deserving.’ The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture. They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.” - Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet.
The recent ban on the use of a number of plastic items by the municipality of Mumbai brought a loud hurrah from most quarters, especially the environmentalists. I too joined in the cheer. Thousands of plastic bags were being doled out in the city at the drop of a hat on the purchase of just about any item.
In a fast growing culture of use and throw, most of these plastic bags found their way to a dustbin or even worse, carelessly thrown on the road leading to the clogging up of a collapsing British era drainage system, the results of which lead to the flooding of the city each time the heavens open up.
There is no doubt in my mind that for a city bursting at its seams, drastic measures such as these are essential. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction and that I discovered this week, as I chaired a monthly review meeting of the parish. Ironically the poor always get a beating when it comes to the implementation of many poorly thought through government policies, be it demonetization, GST or the ban on plastic.
While a mere 44% of my parishioners are employed, a 100% of those above 65 years are dependents. Most of the families in the parish supplement their incomes by assembling tiny bits of imitation jewellery together for a paltry sum; yet to them it is an integral part of their earning which often keeps their head above water. With the ban on plastic, the suppliers of imitation jewellery, colloquially called ‘maal’ or material, simply dried up, as imitation jewellery is either mounted on a plastic board or simply wrapped in plastic bags.
Overnight incomes dwindled and those whose livelihoods entirely ran on this business, found themselves penniless. As usual the poor are always collateral damage. Mercifully the parish council of St Jude’s has never been caught up with parochial bureaucracy and red tapism; the poor have a greater identification with the sufferings of their own ilk. The council was quick to sanction help in the payment of bills and groceries.
But what truly moved me to tears this weekend was the knowledge that one of my poorest communities most badly hit by this ban on plastic decided to care for each other. These forty eight parishioners who live on the periphery of the parish, boarded by the hills of the national park on one end of Kurar in Malad East, decided to reach out to those among them whom they saw as less fortunate.
Mind you, all these families barely eke out a living, yet they decided to care for each other. Financially challenged as they are, the more blessed among them decided to reach out in simple ways like cooking a non-vegetarian meal once a week and sharing it with another family in the community. They felt this would bring some cheer, especially to some widows who live alone.
Coincidentally at this time, the Church Universal also made a collection called ‘Peter’s pence’ which is the name given to the financial support offered by the faithful to the Holy Father as a sign of their sharing in the concern of the Successor of Peter for the many different needs of the Universal Church and for the relief of those most in need: http://www.peterspence.va
The Parish of St Jude is predictable in their Sunday alms giving. The collection is usually about eight thousand rupees ($115) on the first Sunday of the month (salaries are in the bank) and then gradually dwindles over the month. Yet when I explained to the congregation how this money is used by the Holy Father they emptied out their wallets and gave twenty thousand and four hundred rupees (about $295), two and a half times more than the Sunday collection which by the way did not diminish that weekend!
I plan to write to the Holy Father this week to tell him that somewhere in the millions that he receives for his charities, he will find $295 dollars, a widow’s mite, given by the poor in perhaps what may have well been their darkest hour of poverty.
Fr Warner D’Souza