reddirtlattes/ May 2, 2011/ Uncategorized/ 7 comments

Yesterday, Rome filled and flooded with those who had come to see Pope John Paul II  beatified. Not wanting to fight the crowds at the Vatican, I went instead to the Circo Massimo, one of my favorite spots in Rome, where you stand in the shadow of the majestic Palantine ruins. Two large screens had been set up to watch the proceedings, the ground in front of them blanketed with pilgrims. It was a far cry from Rome’s birthday celebration just a little over a week ago in the same space. There was a palpable silence and peace that seemed to be pressing from above and rising from underneath, so that even the clicking of my camera felt shattering. What struck me most about my time there though, was not the proceedings going on, but a small old gypsy woman begging on the sidelines. I watched her, followed her, circled her, as her hand pleaded for mercy. But, hardly anyone gave. Most shielded their eyes from her, looking up, looking down, through. Here was a gathering of people to watch and celebrate the making of one who is now “Blessed,” because of the “miracle” he performed in which a woman was saved. And yet,  here was a woman right in front of them who needed a little saving of her own. Imagine if each of the 1.2 million people who came to the city had simply given her a dollar. Together, they could have all made their own miracle.

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  1. Amen, Sister! beautifully said.

  2. I love the thought of everyone giving one dollar to that woman, I love your way of thinking.

  3. “What you have done for the least of my brothers, you have done for me. And what you have not done for the least of my brothers and sisters, you have not done for me.”

    So sad when there is that disconnect between belief and action.

  4. Hi Sabrina,
    I’m a Nell-follower who got directed to your site following your lovely post about “problems of the privileged.” I loved it! It neatly summed up something that’s been on my mind for some time: how to recognize that my problems are important to me but in the grand scheme of things…not worth a butterfly’s sneeze.

    Anywho, I came upon this post and feel I must disagree. Not in the normal, “hmm…I’m not of the same mind but oh well” sense but in the sense wherein I have to communicate the other side.

    I live in Geneva, where we have a massive and growing gypsy problem. Yes, “problem.” Why? Because they are supported (actively, financially and politically) by the Russian mafia. I kid you not; I see them dropped off around the corner from my house in black Mercedes in the morning and picked up at night. They throw away any non-monetary gains (clothing, etc.) and split/give the day’s earning with the mafia representatives.

    Also, I say “problem” because you don’t see men out “begging” very often do you? But who is this older woman married to? Where are her sons? I leave room for error but I would assume that they are pickpockets, hustlers and thieves. Again, spend a summer in Geneva and you will see what I mean.

    Yes, it could be that Rome is totally different and your brand of gypsies are not like our Swiss-brand. But, I don’t think you would walk through St. Paul’s Sq. without keeping a close eye on your camera and I hope you’re not leaving your purse dangling from the back of your chair at restaurants.

    Apologies for the essay on gypsies but I’ve witnessed a lot of crap at the gypsy hand so you can imagine I become a little nervy when I see people leaving church on Sundays giving “alms” to these “poor.” They are not poor by fate or bad luck. It’s a lifestyle choice and they make far more than the guy working at Starbucks. I’d rather leave him a tip than give this wrinkled old woman a euro.

    Anywho, hat’s off to the posts and the beautiful photography and Happy (late) Mother’s Day!


    1. Hi Bryn,
      I know there are many issues with the Roma all throughout Europe. There is certainly an increasing number of Roma in Rome since the recent expulsions. But how does one differentiate between someone on a mafia payroll and someone who’s desperate? What is fair and what is discriminatory?
      Thanks for reading.

  5. I believe that the difference lies in the person who gratefully accepts any form of help, not just financial. Or, start a dialogue; ask questions about their life. A scammer won’t bother with it.

    My general rule is, if a person is happy to receive an initial offering of food, shoes, clothes, etc., I then give financial assistance, if that’s what they need. But I never start out with it. This goes for Geneva, Philadelphia, wherever.

  6. Where you see an old winkled face, I see beauty. I choose not to walk in the world as if it were trying to scam me. Profiling an entire people is also, as we know, quite dangerous and why the Roma are unwelcome anywhere. But you bring in interesting points and debates are always welcome. The truth, as it always is, is somewhere in the middle I am sure.

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