NRIs

To America, a Message from a Beggar

June 20, 2017 05:16 PM

By Jatinder Singh Bedi

CHICAGO - Walking across Michigan Avenue, I came to a screeching halt. Reclining against a road-side planter, a beggar sat motionless, firmly clasping a shanky sign-board that read: "MAKE AMERICA KIND AGAIN.”

“A man so powerless; and, a message so powerful?” I brooded. I sat observing him for a while from inside the opposing Starbucks. An oblivious stream of people would pass by him. Few gave money; a few food. I walked up to him.

“I am Fred,” he replied, hurrying to spell it; an utterly Yank practice. “What’s this written on your board?” coming to the point, I asked.

“I just wrote it. That’s the way I feel. There is so much noise around. …people are agitating,  …people are protesting, …there is so much anger!” he replied while asking me to again pronounce my name—a tongue-twister for him.

“Do people pay you much?” I asked, wondering if it was a sales point. “Not exactly, but if someone reads it, he stops to pay!” Mr Fred exclaimed, adding, “Last week an old man gave me a hundred dollar note! People do like my message.”

“A guy read this, and got inspired. He printed some stickers, and started distributing around me!” Fred exclaimed. He pointed to one heart-shaped red coloured sticker stuck to his board. The sticker read: “MAKE AMERICA LOVE AGAIN.”

Now, here was America well-described: A President wants America to be “great” again; a passer-by wants to America to “love” again; and, a beggar America to be “kind” again. It was as if the encapsulation of the State of the Society.

Human virtues of kindness are preached world-over. But a beggar finds them missing in America. He sits talking of such ethics across the street from America’s iconic Tribune Tower. To one being great is to be wealthy, to another kindness brings wealth. Greatness comes with virtues --the virtues of love, compassion, and kindness. And that’s what the world religions preach.

In fact politicians do too! but selectively. Vociferous jargons like “...what America needs today is more love and kindness. ..” and, “…restitch the bonds of trust,” in the “hollowed” America, -- were overheard during the last boisterous US Presidential campaign. Alas! these allegedly ended up into the political hot air. Different issues have emerged post-election. Dearth of such virtues is not a national concern. But Mr Fred sees it differently. “I think we need to do better,” the beggar tells me.  

If the virtues of greatness, love, and kindness are missing, then what is that exists? Perhaps Chicago’s own Earnest Hemingway has the answer in his all-time-great novel. Read his masterly ‘The Sun Also Rises’ that would perhaps quintessentially define today’s modern Jake Barnes and Bret Ashley, so many of whom we see all around. If not we, at least Mr Fred, the beggar, does…

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