At the bus stop
She comes at me from nowhere. She just appears with that little wrinkly face and with a proud posture. Her dark eyes are staring deep into mine.
“Would you have a coin for the bus?” she asks me.
Taken by surprise I reach for my wallet. There is something about this lady that doesn’t make me tell her off right away. I search among my coins and find the exact amount for a bus fare. I hand over the 1,50 EUR in exact change and she thanks me. It was a simple transaction. She was in need, I helped her out.
Usually, I don’t give money to people who beg.
“People who beg.” Is there a category of beggars, where some deserves some coins from my wallet and others not? This lady seemed so normal, seemed just like me somehow. But a minute later she sits down next to me at the bus stop and says: “I don’t even have money to buy my own bread”.
A bit thrown off my her straight-forwardness I am silenced for a moment. I see her looking at me with those direct, dark eyes. Now, our conversation has changed. She has moved from one category to the other. She is looking for more. After a moment of silence I gather the courage to ask her back, thinking that if she would be so blunt to ask for money, I can be blunt back and try to understand why. It is actually non of my business, but then again, it is not her business to ask me for money.
“Howcome you don’t have money to buy bread?” I ask her. “What happened?”.
She moves on to explain that she used to work at the flower market, but now when she is retired she has difficulties to make ends meet. Intrigued I ask, “How much money do you get per month?”. “I get 800 EUR from the government, but then I have my rent which is 350 EUR, and then fixed bills for water and electricity of 300 EUR. And with the rest I buy food”.
Before I can respond to that, she is up on her feet again. Asking a bypassing girl for money to her bus fare. And then the next, and the next and the next. They all say no to her. Maybe they judged her differently than I did at first. She starts talking to the people in cars passing the bus stop, who momentarily stopped for the red light.
My bus is approaching, and the little lady shines up, proudly announcing to me that my bus has arrived. Behind my bus comes her bus, which will take her home to her little village behind the hill, to her little apartment that she cannot afford.