Giulia

stone-in-the-wood

Photo by Sue Vincent

She looked at the odd shaped structure.  It was covered in moss.  Everything else seemed to fade into the background.  It reminded her of when she visited the Accademia Gallery and she saw Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of Israel’s most beloved king, David.  Her eyes were fixated on the figure, moving towards it as if hypnotized.  The other works of art faded into insignificance.  She spent as long as she reasonably could, just admiring what for her was the masterpiece of masterpieces.  So engrossed was she in the art that she failed to notice the stranger who had been observing her.

He stood behind a tree, watching her now.   His face was pale–as if he were seeing a ghost.  He recalled the first time he saw her.  He had decided to visit Florence for the first time since he moved to Paris and was standing in the gallery, observing the other works of art while everyone gravitated to the statue of David.  He never could understand people’s fascination with it.  There were other greater sculptures and personally, he preferred Bernini’s David.  He was contemplating taking the train to Rome the following day and visiting the Galleria Borghese when she walked past him.  She didn’t notice him standing there just like now.  He felt the color drain from his face.  The resemblance was remarkable.  She looked so much like Giulia.

Giulia.  Twelve years had passed and yet, he still couldn’t come to terms with her death.  Every where he went, he imagined that he saw her.  His heart ached for her.  His life felt empty without her.  His mind and dreams were filled with her.  She haunted him.  His love for her was still strong and no passage of time seemed to quell it or diminish it.  Other women were interested in pursing a relationship with him but he put them off.  He couldn’t imagine himself being with anyone else.  Giulia was the only girl for him.  When they met, she was a slip of a girl.  Seventeen, with thick black hair that tumbled down her back ending at the small of her back.  Her eyes were tawny and framed by thick lashes.  Her lips were like pink pomegranates and just as sweet.  Everyday after school, she met him on the Ponte Vecchio.

He was much older than her but that didn’t seem to bother her.  She was as madly in love with him as he was with her.  He would have married her if–if she hadn’t fallen into the Arno River one evening.  They were supposed to meet but he was late.  When he finally showed up, the place was swarming with police and he learned that a girl had fallen into the river.  One witness said that the girl jumped into the river.  He refused to believe that it was suicide.

He later discovered that she was pregnant.  One of her friends said that she was afraid of what her parents would do if they found out.  They were strict Catholics.  That was what she was going to tell him that day when he was late.  He would have promised to marry her and take care of her and their child.  Why did she jump?  Was it out of desperation?  Did she think he wasn’t going to show up?  He never forgave himself for being late and a couple of weeks after her funeral, he packed up and left.  And now he was back.  And here he was watching a girl who bore a striking resemblance his beloved Giulia.

Suddenly she turned and she saw him.  Lips pursed, she marched over to him, her hair flapping about her shoulders.  She stopped a short distance from him.  “Why are you following me?” she demanded.

For a moment, he was at a loss for words.  “I’m not following you,” he denied.

“Then, why are you here?”

“It’s a public place,” he said.  “I was just walking through.”

“You were standing behind that tree watching me.  Why?”

“Well, you remind me of someone.”

“Do I really or is that one of your pick up lines?”

“You remind me of a girl I used to know.”

“What happened to her?”

“She died twelve years ago.  You look so much like her.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d better be heading home.”

“Don’t go, Giulia.”

“My name isn’t Giulia,” she informed him.

“I’m sorry.  It’s just that you remind me so much of her.  How old are you?”

“Twenty-eight.”

“She would have been twenty-nine.”

“Look, I really must be going.”

“Please, may I see you again?”

She shook her head.  “No.  And please don’t follow me any more.  I’m not Giulia.  She’s dead.  You need to move on.  Goodbye.”  She turned and walked briskly away.

He stood there watching her retreating figure.  She was right.  It was time to move on.  But how could he?  He couldn’t get over Giulia.  She was in his heart, his mind and in his blood.  He just couldn’t go on without her.  They say that time heals all wounds but that wasn’t true.  His weren’t healing.  The pain was as deep now as it was ten years ago.

Sinking to the ground, he buried his face in his hands.  “Oh, Giulia,” he whispered brokenly.   At the funeral, he had stood far from the mourners, not wanting anyone to see him, especially her parents.   After they left, he went to the grave and threw himself on it, sobbing, the pain overwhelming–like it was now.

After several minutes, he got up, dried his eyes in his sleeves and headed in the direction of the Arno River.  An hour later, they found his body.  The police said that suicide was “likely”.

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Way-stone at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

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Not Goodbye

How long will he tarry?

She waited for him like

the flower waits for the

rain to quench its thirst

or the sun to give it warmth.

 

How long will he tarry?

She looked in all directions

hoping to see the familiar

figure coming towards her.

 

How long will he tarry?

The sun was setting and soon

darkness would unfurl its long, gnarled

fingers around the bench where

she sat, the pale moon her

only source of light.  During the day

the park was like a friend, warm and

welcoming but at night, it was a stranger.

 

How long will he tarry?  As the sun

hovered over the horizon, she felt a

chill.  What if this wasn’t him being

tardy?  What if he doesn’t come?  What

if the last goodbye was really the last

one?

 

The sound of a step behind her, alerted

her that someone was approaching.

Rising to her feet she turned, her heart

racing.  Relief washed over her when

she saw him.  She ran to him and threw

her arms around him.  “I was afraid

that you wouldn’t come.”

 

He held her closely.  “I had to come,” he

said.  “And tell that this is not goodbye or

the end of us.  I wanted to to say that I will

miss you until we meet again.  And we will meet

again, one sunny day much like the day when we

first met.”

 

She felt the tears run down her cheeks but

there was a smile on her face.  This wasn’t a

goodbye–it was just the end of a chapter and

one day, they would start a new one.  Until then,

“Let’s tarry here for a little while,” she suggested.

And they stood there, in the moonlit park hugging.

 

Shelter

Her world had been one of

Abuse, neglect and heartache.

At seventeen she ran away

Being on the streets was better

Than living under the

Same roof with an unloving

Mother and abusive step-father.

 

She was her mother’s only

Child.  Since the day she was born,

She had never known a mother’s

Love.  All the love she had

Received came from her father.

Her world was turned upside

Down when he died.  She was

Seven when her mother

Remarried.  Life from that point

On was nothing but misery .

 

When she was sixteen, she started to stay

out late just to avoid going home.

Her mother accused her of

Getting into mischief with boys

And things got so bad that

She slipped out one night

and never looked back.

She used the money she had

Stolen from her mother’s hand-bag

To buy some food—then the money.

ran out.  She begged and got a few dollars

But she couldn’t get much—just a

Hot chocolate and a donut.

 

One afternoon, she was sitting in a corner,

slumped against the wall under

The weight of despair when a

Woman approached her.  She had

A kind face and her voice was

Gentle as she asked, “Are you all right?”

The girl shook her head.  “No.  I’m cold

And hungry.”

“Don’t you have a home to go to?”

“No.  I ran away from home and I

Don’t want to go back there.”

The woman studied her for a moment.  “Come

With me.”

 

The girl hesitated for a moment and then

She got up and followed the woman into

A coffee shop.  After the woman ordered

Two hot chocolates and sandwiches,

They went and sat at a table by the window.

After some gentle prompting, the girl told

The woman about herself.  She saw the

expression of compassion on her face.

After the girl was finished.  She asked, “What’s

Your name?”

“Amy.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Amy.  I’m Gail.  I work at

The homeless shelter just round the corner.

If you have no objections, I will take you there

After we are finished here and you will stay there

Until you are ready to be on your own.”

 

She handed Amy a brochure which she glanced

Through.  The shelter promised  food, a clean bed

and a safe place to stay.  For the moment that

was all she wanted.  She smiled shyly.  “Thank you.

I would like to stay at the shelter.”

 

Gail looked pleased.  “Good.”  She sipped her hot

Chocolate.  Then she looked directly at Amy.  Her

Expression serious.  “You know it was no accident

That I found you,” she said.  “I believe that God

Meant for us to meet.  You know that He loves you

And He wants what is best for you.”

 

Amy had heard about God but this was the first

Time anyone told her that He loved her.  This

Revelation brought tears to her eyes.  She only

Experienced love once in her life and that was

From her father.  Since he died, all she knew

Was mistreatment, sorrow and cruelty.  Yet, this

Kind woman, a practical stranger, was telling

Her that God loved her.  It was something

That she would never forget.  And tonight

She was going to sleep in a warm bed in a

Shelter and not on the street in the cold.

Yes, Somebody did indeed love her.

 

young teenage girl

Source:  Covenant House

Women Beggars in India

The Bible has told us that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  In fact, Jesus said that one day He will say to those who helped those in need, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’ (Matthew 25:34-36).

It is hard to go to a place like India and see a woman on the streets, begging with a child in tow and not do something about it.   She is dressed shabbily, perhaps bare feet, her face dirty and in her arms is a sleeping infant or a toddler with a dirty face, runny nose and big eyes looking at you as his mother holds out a thin, dirty hand for money.  Your heart melts and you reach into your handbag or your money belt to take out some money to give her.  It’s impossible for you not to help this mother and her child.  You give her the money and she takes it and goes way.  Your heart feels light.  You have done a great thing.

 

It’s a common sight in India to see a dirty looking woman carrying a child in her arms.  If you are driving, you see them at the traffic light and when you stop, they come to your car and bang on the window. Sometimes it’s a little boy with a runny nose.   You will find them in the railway stations, metro stations, tourist attractions, in temples and in areas where there are crowds.  People who see them are moved to give them money.  Sometimes they shoo them away.

 

It is perfectly normal for people to beg in a country where there is so much poverty.  In fact, begging has become one of the most serious social issues in India in spite of rapid economic growth.  This has led to the growth of beggars in the country.  Most of them come from Bangladesh and some are from India. The problem is that not all of the beggars are legitimate.  The few who are real are those who are handicapped because they are unable to work, they are old or blind or they need money for basic needs.  Many live far below the poverty line and have been forced to beg in order to survive.

 

There are entire families who are begging on the streets and in temples because their income is not enough.  The children are unable to go to school.  Poverty is very real in India and begging is the only way the people can earn their livelihood.  Unfortunately, begging has become a big scam in India. Travel India Smart warns people who plan to visit India that if they are approached by a women carrying a baby and begging for money not to give her any money.  These women make the babies look pathetic to appeal to the public’s sympathy.

 

In an article, Travel India Smart says that when one woman takes a rest, she hands the baby over to other women who continue to walk the streets in the hot sun, carrying the baby.  Babies are rented out from beggar to beggar.  As a mother, I can’t imagine how a mother could allow her baby to be used like this.  Maps of India says that sometimes the babies are drugged for the entire day so that they look sick and can be easily carried from one area to another by the young women beggars.

 

These beggars want money.  One beggar said that the baby she was carrying had just been fed and she would prefer money.  In Mumbai, a child or a woman beggar approaches a visitor, wanting some powdered milk to feed a baby.  The woman would take the visitor to a nearby stall or shop which happens to sell tins or boxes of the milk.  The milk is pricey and if the tourist hands over the money for it, the shopkeeper and the beggar split the proceeds between them.  The beggars rent babies from their mothers to make them look credible and they carry these sedated babies who are draped limply in their arms and claim that they don’t have any money to feed them.

 

When confronted by a woman beggar and a child, what do we do?  In an article written in Go India, Sharell Cook, suggests that it is best to ignore the beggars.  It may sound harsh but by not giving them what they want, you are taking the necessary step toward abolishing beggary.  It is something that has become a menace to society.  It is exploiting the compassion of those who want to help those in need.  It is making it difficult for the real beggars.  Babies and children are being exploited.  And gangs are profitting from begging.  Some beggars have gone as far as deliberately maiming and disfiguring themselves just to get more money.

 

Something has to be done to stop this epidemic.  One suggestion is that charitable organizations use their clout with governments to ban beggars from using babies.  Another suggestion is that the Indian government continues with its measures to alleviate poverty.  For our part, people can help to stop this problem by not giving money to these beggars.  Instead, they are encouraged to visit a temple and give alms to the beggars there.

 

Tips for giving to Beggars are:

  • If you really want to give to beggars, give only 10-20 rupees at a time and give them when leaving a place not when you arrive or you will be mobbed.
    • Try to give to those who perform a service, such as small children who dance or sing
    • Give to those who are elderly or crippled.

 

God wants us to show compassion to those who are in need but He doesn’t expect us to help those who would take advantage of our charity and exploit others for their greedy gains.

 

Avoid giving to women with babies because the babies are usually not theirs.  The best thing you can do is to not give anything to the beggars.  If everyone were to stop giving, then these gangs and all those who are profitting from begging will be put out of business.  They will have no choice to work and earn an honest living.  And visitors can enjoy a hassle free vacation.

 

indian_beggar_woman

Sources:  Map of IndiaTravel India SmartGo India

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave who became a leading abolitionist.  She led hundreds of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Notes to Women salute this brave woman who suffered hardship and physical violence. When she crossed into the free state of Pennsylvania, she was overwhelmed with relief and awe.  Of this experience, she said, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person.  There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

This taste of freedom was something that she wanted others to experience.   So, instead of staying there in the North where it was safe, she made it her mission to rescue her family and others who were still living in slavery.  She earned the nickname “Moses” for leading others to freedom.

Harriet made history as the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, guiding the Combahee River Raid which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.   She was named one of the most famous civilians in American History before the Civil War, third only to Betsy Ross and Paul Revere. Today, she continues to be an inspiration to generations of Americans who are still struggling for civil rights.

I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.

I would fight for my liberty so long as my strength lasted, and if the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.

I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.

I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.

I grew up like a neglected weed – ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it.

I said to de Lord, ‘I’m goin’ to hold steady on to you, an’ I know you’ll see me through.’

Twasn’t me, ’twas the Lord! I always told Him, ‘I trust to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect You to lead me,’ an’ He always did.

 

Sources:  Biography; Brainy Quote