A Painful Truth

As Denise and I waited on the platform at the Casa Voyageurs train station for our train to Fes, a young Moroccan man, probably in his mid-twenties, approached Denise and began speaking to her in broken English. He had a story to tell, a sob story similar to one with which most of you I am sure are familiar. He needed to get somewhere, in his case the city of El Jadeeda, loated about 40 miles from Casablanca, and he didn’t have enough money to buy a ticket. Could she give him 20 dirhams, about $2.50? I had simply been listening to the conversation until then, but Denise turned to perhaps gauge my reaction and also for us to give a unified response to his request. Culturally, it’s also more appropriate for the man to be involved anyway. We decided to switch to Arabic then as well, thinking that we (actually I) might be able to intimidate him a little if he realized we were not tourists who had just arrived in Morocco for the first time. Immediately, I adopted the approach I learned from my father in assessing such situations. In more than fifty years of ministry, he learned that not all requests for assistance could be met and he felt accountable for using limited resources wisely. Thus, I asked how much money he had and how much a ticket to El Jadeeda cost. He showed me 16 dirhams and said he needed twenty more. Like my father responding to a request for gas money from a stranded traveler by going to the service station and putting gas in the car, I accompanied the young man to the ticket window. It took a couple of minutes to get back into the station and he asked me the usual questions about where I lived, when did I learn Arabic, and what had I done in Morocco in the past. I inquired at the window, discovered that the ticket only cost 35 dirhams and hence he needed only 19, not 20, a glaring irregularity in my view. I purchased the ticket; he offered his thanks with a lot of enthusiasm and we walked back to the platform. He walked over to the quai for the train to El Jadeeda and I saw him began to jog alongside the train as it began to leave the station. The signalman shook his head at him; he was too late. Taken again, I thought, since I knew he could obtain a refund for the unused ticket. I saw him talking to a railway employee, and he then called out to me that he could take the next train in a couple of hours. “Well,” I said to Denise, “at least I have some material for a Perspectives.” I watched as he then started back toward the entrance to the station but stopped at a little kiosk area near the exit where one can purchase soft drinks, bottled water or coffee. I remarked to Denise that I wondered how he would be able to purchase anything to drink since he had allegedly given me all the money he had. Then I saw the clerk take a small cup, turn around to the spigot, and hand him a cup of water, no charge. I then said to Denise, “You know, I am an overly suspicious person.” She replied, “Maybe you could write a Perspectives about that.” Touchee, Denise, Touchee!!! Not all moments of self-revelation are comfortable, particularly, when the truth discerned is delivered through your better half. I awakened early this morning and thought a lot about the lesson learned yesterday. As a Christian, I have experienced the gift of grace in my life, and too well acquainted with my real character, know first-hand about unconditional love. I worry that my professed compassion, as in yesterday’s event, is motivated more by a sense of obligation and duty. I wonder if I shall ever have the capacity to extend to others the grace I have felt and know in my own life. Fred

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