Write Around the World: It’s Cold Out There

We can’t have moral obligations to every single person in this world.

We have moral obligations to those who we come up against,

who enter into our moral space, so to speak.

That means neighbors, people we deal with, and so on.
Alexander McCall Smith

It’s cold out here. In fact, it’s freezing. I can hardly tap out a message on my phone and I’m wondering why I didn’t bring gloves.

She lies on the pavement, wrapped in a coat, scarf and beanie. I think it’s a woman, due to the shape of her body, but I’m not sure.

People step around her. She’s lying at the entrance of a food market. Inside, it’s warm. People are buying fresh ground coffee from an Aussie-owned cafe. There are acai bowls, green bowls, and other hipster-inspired nutritional foods, sold at a premium.

It’s busy. We all can’t wait to sip on that smooth coffee made with organic milk and chow down on some of that cool, superfood goodness.

The chill retreats from my hands and I eat my fill. The hotel I’m staying at is down the street. If I carry my coffee back, it’ll keep my hands warm.

I step out into the chill of an early spring morning in New York. She’s still there. She doesn’t have a sign or a cup to put money in.

How do I love her? The gospel tells to love my neighbour. She’s my neighbour, she lives two doors down the pavement from me. She is in my moral space.

Shame creeps over me and sours my stomach. Shame of having more than most. Shame of having a warm bed to rest in. Shame of walking the extra distance to avoid the nasty drip coffee on offer at the hotel. Shame accompanied me the rest of the day.

I put one-dollar notes and coins in my pocket, ready to give when someone asks me for money.

‘God bless you,’ they say.

‘God bless you,’ I say back and shame overwhelms me again.

I bless them with a dollar or a few coins and they bless me with a blessing. They anoint my head with oil and I walk on.

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