Project. 4 days and 4 nights as a homeless. Catalin Ciuculescu. Part 5

Finally. But it was worth the waiting, I hope! 🙂

Original in Romanian here – http://www.catalinciuculescu.ro/4-zile-si-4-nopti-pe-strada/

Catalin Ciuculescu

source – http://www.catalinciuculescu.ro

8. It is Sunday… I slept in the waiting room in a couple of rounds… I intended to attend a church I never visited before, a church I heard many things about… Since I had no watch, I woke up now and then to check on the big clock on the platform… I wanted to be there on time to be sure I will have a seat… I got there… It doesn’t look very large on the outside, but the interior is grandiose… I went there with small expectations, wanting to be surprised… I entered with the hat on my head…
At the entrance, there was a man with an “order” tag on his chest… “Take off your hat and go there… This is the man section, and that is the women section,” he told me… He directed me toward the seats in the very back… I obeyed his directions… At the margin there was an older brother… Three seats away from him, another one, old as well… I sat down between the two, intending to leave a seat off at my right and my left… The brother at my right was looking at me intensely… He was studying me from tip to toe… I could see him with out of the tail of my right eye… I looked him once in the eye, and he turned his head… Many people passed by… Other two sat at my sides… I counted those who shook hands with me, 4 they were… I don’t know if they greeted me because they had really wanted it or because this was the custom…
I heard bands, instruments and choirs singing… I was very impressed… Then came the sermon… The brother at my left was getting sleepy… He inspired me as well, because I didn’t sleep much in the railway station… But I contained myself… They read from the Book of Luke… They spoke of “who is the greatest”… I listened to what they said… It sounded great… Someone up in the front ended the “service” with a prayer…
As I already have had the experience of a few greetings at the beginning, I went straight to the door this time… I put my hat on and I was waiting… I was waiting for someone to hold out a hand and to greet me… Many people were exiting… Someone exclaimed “how many people!”… I was waiting… They were all passing me by, and no one did anything – not a thing… They were only “measuring” me with a look… I think they all realized I was wearing size “S” at my shirt, 30 at my pants and 42-size shoes… At the end, a younger boy “hit” unintentionally against my eyes… From 2-3 meters he told me “Ciao”… I waited continually to be approached by someone… The church was almost empty now… “NOONE” came…
I took courage and went back inside the church… The brother who led the “program” and said the final prayer was now walking toward the exit door accompanied by someone… I took him aside and told him: “Look, I came to say hello to you, since no one said hello to me”… He stared at me and asked me where I was coming from… I told him that I came “from the railway station”, showing him my cluttered apparel… I received a false, plastic smile… “I expected you all to be different… I came in the morning… I waited at the exit door, and no one greeted me”, I told him… “Well, here is someone who greets you,” he told me, wearing the same cheap smile on his neat face… And I told him that he did so because I went to him… So he said “That’s of no importance now… Let’s be happy we had this opportunity to greet each other,”… I told him “There is much talking in your church, but there is few you actually do” … Still smiling, he told me “it depends”… I watched him in the eye and told him “You should have cared,” while I turned him my back and started walking toward the exit… I once again looked back, while I was about to disappear behind the gate, and I saw the same, beautiful smile on his face, while he was already talking to someone else…
I was holding in my right hand the same raffia bag, without any bread or water, only some empty plastic bags, one New Testament and a thin coat to lay underneath when sitting on cold things… I was walking down the street and I was grudging, not willing to tell myself “You were right!!!”… I would have wished to be wrong, but it was not so…
I see all things differently now, because I tasted only a tiny bit of the life that those on the streets live… Those people are strong… I wonder how many I passed by myself without noticing, without caring… I never judged any of those who did not greet me, neither the one I spoke to at the end of the service… I am only sorry for “us”, those who should have been different, and should have been compassionate… With those we should have presented God to, being made visible in us… What can I say… At least the church was a warm place… Now I’ll lay down on a lonely, cold bench in the “Park of Roses”… Life is not “rosy” at all… Anyway, “they don’t care” I say to myself…
9.
When you live on the streets, you don’t worry anymore you might sleep too much… The cold is the best “alarm”, it wakes you up when it desires… I took away the coat I covered my knees with, I stood up from the bench in the park and went to the orthodox cathedral… It is warm and quiet there… I was watching the people waiting in line to kiss the icons… Some others went forward and were kneeling on some stairs… I took courage and went forward, marching with my unevenly cut hair through the few people there… I kneeled and I was laughing in my mind for what I was doing, and then I prayed to God… I stood up and went back to the chair I was sitting on before…
I wanted to go to a church on Sunday evening, a different one… I went with some really bad expectations, to not be disappointed again… I stopped in front of one church I visited only once before, some 4 years ago… I came close, but the door was locked… On the door there were pinned 2 sheets of paper, announcing the same message, with the schedule of the church meetings… They had no service on Sunday evenings… I thought to go back to the mall and to sit in some warm place, but I remembered of a church not far away from the place I was… I waited for 40 minutes for a bus which almost intentionally didn’t show up… I was about to take my bag from the bench and leave, when the bus came… It took me to a 2-minutes-distance from the church…
The big hall was locked… I saw some lights in the rooms of the basement and I went in… I took my hat off, willingly, to save anyone of eventual silly explanations… I opened the door and remained in the back, near the exit… I took a swift look over the present people… There no more than 60-70 people… I was expecting something to happen… And something did, something that brought tears in my eyes… A sister, not so young anymore came close and asked me if I didn’t want to go forward… I told her “OK, if you lead me,”… So she put her right hand on my back and took me directly at the first row, in the front, on the first chair… And then she whispered into my ear: “Here it’s warmer… You can take off your coat if you want”… She left me near the chair and I felt a great joy in my heart, trying to stop the few salty tears to roll down my cheeks that saw no water for 3 days…
They were standing, singing of the holiness of God… So I stood as well, though I thought that people were staring at the “stairs” of my unevenly hair-cut… I turned to my right, watching them as a stranger, wanting to see any strange look in their eyes, but their eyes were closed, and their hands were raised toward God… While I was enjoying the music, I saw the young boy playing the bass guitar watching me… I looked at him as well… He smiled me twice… The pastor who led the meeting looked at me as well when he looked at the church, the preacher did the same… I rejoiced, not for myself, but for any man living on the streets who might have been in my place…
The church service came to an end, and I was waiting to see the final of this whole experience… A young boy passed me by… I was sitting on my chair, with my head bowed, studying the carpet’s pattern, when the pastor who had led the service approached me… He sat next to me, reached out his hand to me, asked me how I was, who I was, where I was coming from, where I was sleeping… I wanting to restrain myself and not telling him my story, but I couldn’t… He was surprised and encouraged of all I told him… With God’s willing, I’ll visit them again, because he invited me to do so… I felt an enormous joy because of finding them…
Yes, tonight my expectations were deluded in the most pleasant and undreamed for way… It was confirmed to me that where there are many it’ is “colder” and the falsehood of some can be seen without needing a magnifying glass… But I felt acceptance in a rather small church… And I understood that the power is not in numbers, but in the quality… You can have 6 horses (a saying) and all of them being beautiful and lazy, or you can have two poor ones, but who really pull together the wagon…
I go now to sleep in the waiting room… I think I’ll take a ticket to Baile Calacea… Haha… I didn’t thing to keep writing, whenI see a couple I know, coming toward me, with their little child… I remained serious… Both of them looked at me, didn’t recognize me and kept walking… This entire story is funny…
10.
I bought a ticket… Ion entered the waiting room as well, that boy that shared that fried chicken with me in my very first day… Both of us sat next to the warm heating pipes and chatted… I thanked him again for what he did for me… He told me again that God knows… He wanted to leave Romania, because Basescu ridiculed him… I told him I desired to help him somehow myself… “You? You want to help me?” he was saying, studying my cloths… “What could you help me with?”… “Maybe I can find some money and help you with that,” I told him… “There is no way you can help me,” Ion replied me… He told me that he didn’t really want to leave our country…
I told him that on Saturday the Christians give food away… And he started telling me such beautiful things about those Christians… He told me many things about God… That He is just, that He judges, that He sees… He preached to me without any structured sermon-plan… He knew many things… “It is good to repent,” he told me. “Christians help you if you repent”… While I was talking to him, sincerely and completely unstressed, he said to me, “You have a smelling breath… It is not proper to speak to someone like that… You can spread microbes”… I believed him that my breath was smelly, but I just couldn’t believe the easiness from the way he told me to be careful how I speak… I laughed in my mind… I covered my mouth with my right hand and asked him if this way was a better way to talk… He nodded…
The security guys threw him out when they came for the 1 am round… I went outside on the platform, I asked him if he has any money and since he denied, I gave him 15 Lei, the money I had from the girls who gave me the tea and the pepper-sandwiches… I thanked him again because he gave me form his food… He thanked me as well… I told my story to a man that was coming home from Norway, I told him what I was doing, and how I met Ion… He was impressed… He was really open to listen to me telling him about God… He woke me up to help him carry his luggage to the train to Iasi… I hugged him, then he told me he saw Ion in a tavern a couple of minutes earlier… “Thank you for telling me,” I said… We greeted each other and I returned in the station, thinking of what he told me about Ion… I didn’t feel sorry (for giving him the money), but I had hoped he would use them differently…
At about 6 am Ion woke me up… Slumberous and hardly seeing his face, I heard him telling me, “Here, eat!”, and he put a transparent recipient in my hand… I was really sleepy, so I couldn’t think, so I laid it next to me… I woke up later, came to my senses and read on the recipient’s lid “pork-scraps”… The security guys came to control everyone’s tickets… It was 8.15… Their boss looked at me and on a nosy tone said to me that I was about to become one of the well-established ones in the station… My train was leaving at 8.31… “It’s a quarter to eight,” he said to me… “I still have 15 minutes,” I replied myself…
In a park I opened the recipient from Ion… It contained two pumpkin rolls… God knew I was not very fond of pumpkin, so that must be the reason why He gave them to me… “Grumbling over food” is not good… I ate them at once with an appetite, and I thanked Ion for them as well… I felt sorry I doubted him about what he did with the money I gave him… I understood it then… He took some food for me too… I felt moved…
11.
I took the tram (no.4)… At the end of the line there was a shelter for the people living on the streets… I wanted to get there… I didn’t know where the “Teacher’s street” was, so I asked someone who worked on the street… He had an orange coverall with reflective strips… “Hey, you, (with a Transylvanian accent), I’m goin’ there myself”… He told me to follow him… “You goin’ to that center?” he asked me… I told him yes… “Common’, I’m taking you with me, I know where it is…” he told me… After a while, he says, “But I don’ know on which street to turn”… I was walking behind him and was falling about… He was bending now and then after some maggots… He was wearing some black shoes which sank in the mud at every step while we walked toward our destination… He cursed himself… I was walking one step behind him… He kept turning to me and said “Common’… ” I liked him very much… He was behaving like a father with me… We arrived there and it was closed… He cursed himself again and I laughed… “We go in Balcescu-market, the Germans are handing out food at one thirty,” he said to me…
We took the same tram and went in the Center… We walked and chatted along… “Do you have a spoon?” he asked me… I didn’t… “I can give you one, I have three of them,” he said… He asked me where I was sleeping, where I am from and so on… He looked at me and said: “Yo, I need to give you a pair of jeans, your ones are dirty”… I told him this was my last day there and that I was about to leave… I told him I ate on Saturday at the Christians… “Ah, yeah man, I ate there too,” he told me… “Nice people, those Christians,” I said, “they give food to the poor ones”… “Yeah, man, you are right,” he nodded… I told him I’d like to become a Christian myself… “Yo, man, if you do so, you’ll have great luck”… “How so?” I asked him… “They have beautiful girls, you marry one, and you’ve got a home… If you become a Christian, they will find you some work to do,” … I started laughing, but while looking away, for I didn’t want him to see me… I told him I wanted to do it from my heart, not for a girl or a home… “That’s OK… But I cannot, bro… I can get off alcohol, but I cannot lay off smoking, I just cannot, bro”… I told him to go, ’cause God can free him in the meanwhile… He knew much about God, and told me of several churches he attended…
We reached the Balcescu-market, but there was no meal served, because it was the 1st of December… Another boy came; he was inhaling from a little bag with bronze, holding a quarter-full bottle of Cola under his arm… He asked me to have a sip… I watched the bag in his left hand, I looked at his face, and than I said “no, thanks”… Though I thought it was a great thing him wanting to share that soda with me and I told him “Well, give me a sip, I haven’t had a soda a while ago”… I took a sip and thanked him… We were sitting on some concrete stairs, when “daddy” approached me… Dorin was his name… He told me we were going back in the Center, he wanted to give me a “schnitzel”… He told me the stories of many of those we met on our way on the street… Some of them had had families, which went apart or went crazy… He was telling me of one who had a weighing scale and who earned great money with it, enough to build a house… At some point, he said, “yo, everyone knows me here in this Timisoara… I am rancorous”… I was laughing…
I saw he cared… He wanted to help me to have an ID… He said that if Police starts letting into me, he will intervene for me, he will tell them I am his colleague, and I am waiting for my ID… We stopped somewhere downtown and I told him I would go to the church, and after that, I’d see what I am gonna do… As you wish, he told me, as a father would… Dorin was 45y old… I appreciated him a lot… I shook hands with him and thanked him for everything…
Just after saying goodbye to him, I saw Bir walking next to a bike… He came to look after me… I didn’t linger on the streets anymore… I felt the hot air steaming from my nostrils, and I was expecting to get a cold… 4 days and 4 nights on the street hall-marked my “odor”… I stank awfully… I thanked God for the warmth in the place where Bir lived, for the warm water and the French fries we ate with sunny-side-up eggs on a small table in the kitchen
Well… God taught me a lot these days… I described some of what I saw and what I felt… I am ashamed of myself and I bow down before God… He gave me lessons through those you couldn’t imagine they could teach you something… God is in them as well, even if we judge them and consider them as “dirty”, but this is true: “your eyes mirror your heart”… We are dirty every time we can do good but don’t… We are dirty when our cloths are clean but our minds are rotten… We are dirty when we desire a better life but keep a selfish thinking, as some heartless fools… We have way too much compared to those having nothing… We have cloths, food, water, heat, a bed and blankets, apparently ordinary things, but things many don’t owe…
God taught me to stop complaining when it comes to food, even if it contains pepper or pumpkin… I treasure time now… There are too many things to be done, and time passes way too quick… Before, I used to avoid “those living on the streets”, now I desire them to look after my eyes… I hope I’ll keep that in my heart… Many are alcoholic, because they live a life that’s too hard… I didn’t judge them… I wouldn’t want to live in their shoes… It’s too hard… That is why some of them lost their mind… I don’t say give them money, but I say lets start caring for them… When you care, you know what you have to do…
My hair is growing, and my experiences stay… I don’t want to live again what I experienced in those 4 days… They were only 4 hard days, not the 25 years which Ion lived on the streets, for instance… I didn’t live at all… I just got to take a sip of the bitterness called “life on the streets”… An impression too small… The subject of my writing is not me, as might think some “clever boys” armed with 5-barrelled arms with a telescopic sight… It’s about them, us and God… People living on the streets don’t owe much, but they know how to share better than we do…
All those of you reading these lines have much… Too much… If there is something extraordinary you guys have and they don’t is HOPE… I asked one how he was… He gave me one reply that left me behind: “I breathe, to not die”… You have much… Keep this verse in mind: “the poor you will always have with you, and you can help them anytime you want…” Check out Isaiah 58, and you will see what you have to do… A wise man once said: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.“ – Proverbs 19:17
May God give us lots of passion for Him and compassion for others!

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