Monday, October 4, 2010
On a train to Firenze (Florence)
I have always wondered about the young man who went to sleep while Paul was preaching until midnight and fell out of a third story window and onto the floor in front of everyone, what does he think about it now? Assuming he was a believer, he might be thinking, “Boy, was I a dope! Here I was, listening to the APOSTLE PAUL and what did I go and do? I fell asleep. What could be worse? But now everyone in heaven knows about it. When they meet me, they’ll say, ‘Ahhh, I read about you, weren’t you the guy?”… so on so forth. Look here, in my defence, to me, he was just some ole guy that went on and on. If I had only known he was going to be the ‘Apostle’ Paul, I would have made a point of listening more closely. How was I to know?”
We shouldn’t be so hard on this guy as we all do the same thing all of the time. We miss “Wow!” divine moments – moments when there is a visitation from God. I just wonder how many missed being a part of Pentecost because they tired of sitting in the same room day in and day out with a bunch of smelly people? We aren’t told how many began, we are only told how many were there at the end.
Larry and I were rushing to catch the early morning train and in front of us, was a mother pushing a small stroller, and three cute little girls rushing on ahead of her. She was African and pregnant with her fourth child. I noticed that she wore a heavy wool wrap around skirt, hardly attire for the hot day ahead so to me, this meant that she was poor as are most African’s who manage to make it to Italy and Europe.
Larry was staying close behind me and as we came to the first door to board the lady pulled on the handle but the door was locked (broke). In frustration she pushed on to the next and down deep I was thinking, “This lady is going to cause us to miss this train.” We couldn’t go around her due to a large fence separating the platform from a construction zone. She did make it to the next open door but when she attempted to lift the stroller with the baby in it, she couldn’t get it up the three stairs. The oldest of the three little girls jumped ahead of her and tried to help but was just not strong enough. I saw the situation unfolding and inwardly thought, “The doors are going to close on this woman with the baby only half way on board, I must do something to help.” I am sure that, my real concern was my own welfare. “Come on lady! Let’s go!” With time ticking like a bomb about to go off, I pushed my fat self through the small opening and lifted the front of the carriage onto the deck. ‘Thank you,” she said, and in she went the littlest one in tow.
Two of the cute little girls took a seat in front of us with the momma plopping down exhausted in an aisle seat some five rows away. I sat in one aisle seat and Larry posited himself just across from me and the train began to pull away. “Whew!”
Less than five minutes went by when the conductress came through the door, “Buon Giorno! Bigiletti! – (Your tickets please).” Happily I reached into my jacket vest pocket to await my turn. It was then that she came to the exhausted and perspiring African woman, took her ticket and displaying some displeasure with her gestures, waving the ticket as she spoke. I know what she was saying, “Madame, this ticket is not a proper ticket for this train. You you will have to pay a “supplimente.” This is simply another word for a fine and conductors like to assess it as it means a slight bonus for them. Almost no one gets a free pass even if they are tourists and strangers. In the early days, I paid a few of these fines and they are extremely unfair and unreasonable amounts of money. Often the fine is three times the original fare. I watched as the conductress, fanned the ticket back and forth from one side to the other. The African lady looked up not knowing what to say or do and that is when I went abruptly down the aisle holding out toward her my closed fist with a fifty Euro clinch tightly inside. I’m sure she didn’t know what to think of this gesture from a man she had but only seen for a moment as she tried to get up a set of stairs and into the train. Puzzeled, she took my hand and as she opened her palm she looked and broke into tears. This does not happen in Italy. Almost never does anyone help a poor, African immigrant. Certainly, no one offers to give them an unsolicited fifty Euro. For her, this was no less than a miracle. I know what it is to be an underdog. I love to deliver the oppressed. It is a thrill to silence the haughty accuser.
Suddenly, there was a change on her face as she confidently handed the money to the conductor. Stunned by the turn of events and feeling out manouvered, the conductor made the necessary exchange, issued a new ticket and handed it back.
In a moment, when the aisle was clear, the African lady came toward me still flushed with relief and said, “Thank you.” I pointed upward and gave glory to God.
The chances are good that I will never see her again. Perhaps and who knows, I may see her in heaven, I don’t know. Maybe she was a sister and I was simply there to provide for her need. This one thing I am rather sure of. That night when she returned to her little apartment and her husband came through the door she quickly offered this about her day, “You will not believe what happened! I had a miracle today!”
Larry was keenly watching all of this. He was asking all the way through what was going on. Remember, this is his first ministry visit to Italy so all of the dynamics were new to him. But as the story developed, he was all for it and I felt as though he was God’s one man cheering squad. When it was all done, he did what he almost always does. Perhaps he doesn’t want me to get all of the glory for myself but he stepped in and insisted on paying for it. Ah, ha! another divine moment. I wouldn’t want to have missed either one of them. Just as I was there for this lonely African mom, Larry was a provision of God for me. I love to do miracles with other people’s money. I do it all of the time.