Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Outgoing (05/05/11)
TITLE: The Bread of Plight
By Theresa Santy
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The big company men carry on with their parties but nothing is the same. They complain about the sacrifices they’ve had to make. Something must be done, they say; we’ve had to give up our private jets and settle for first class on commercial flights. Imagine. Commercial flights! The big company men stand upon their grassy hilltop and peer down into the little city below. They wipe their lips and marvel at how pretty the little city looks with all its flickering lights. Some of the big company men have compassion and say they are willing to accept the burden of their sacrifices if it means someone else is suffering less. But, refute the others, the plight of these men is not our fault. Greed is the monster that caused this not us, so why should we have to suffer because of it?
Down in the little city the small company men hold on tightly to whatever is left. Nothing is the same, but they will manage. And the hungry men increase in number and grow in desperation. They shuffle to the shelters, the missions, and the churches. They check their pride at the door and beg for help. They collect their bags of food, enough to feed their families for a few days: Stale baguettes, leftover holiday sweets, some dairy slightly passed its freshness date, and cans, lots and lots of cans that are other people’s discards.
The hearts of many are empty, but the hearts of some are not. There is a glimmer of life in the hearts of those who have held on to hope, a hope that carries the dream that this too shall pass. Food collection agencies inspire thousands of volunteers to work tirelessly to fill the mouths of the hungry. Hope thrives in the helping hand and the volume of outgoing charity increases infinitely. But the outgoing charity can never catch up with the incoming hunger. A great void absorbs the charity, the stale bread, the time and effort of the volunteers. The hunger never subsides. Beggars crowd the cities to overflowing. They spill into the quiet neighbourhoods.
The councilmen in the little city ask their people whether or not they believe panhandling is a big problem in their city. Something’s got to be done the residents complain. These beggars are a threat to our safety. They crowd us at the gas station and if we don’t give them money they call us names. They act as if they are entitled. The shopping women clutch their purses close and herd their children ahead of them to keep pace ahead of the beggars. The quiet residents shouldn’t have to put up with this. These beggars should be banished from our city. But, refute a few of the quiet residents, most of these beggars have already been banished from the city upon the hill.
Under a flickering streetlamp in the little city a hungry man shuffles toward a woman loading groceries into her trunk. The resident woman senses his approach, feels it in the raised hairs of her arm so she loads quickly, but she’s too late. The beggar stands next to her. The woman spins around to face him and to explain why she is unable to help, but when the woman looks at the beggar she cannot speak. She sees that he is a man, old, filthy, and worn. The woman’s eyes fill with water. She can see that he is not only a hungry man, but a forgotten, unloved, and discarded man.
The woman does the unthinkable. She soils her Sunday dress by hugging the man. The woman and man stand together in a long weeping embrace and this causes hope to flicker from within the hearts of each.
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