"The world of humanity is in need of great improvement, for it is a material jungle wherein trees without fruit flourish and useless weeds abound." ~ 'Abdu'l-Bahá
She felt damned. She was sure there was a curse on her.
Others had work, others had families, others did things together...
She was poor, homeless, friendless---had been for as long as she could remember.
Mother was a vague sweet memory---father? No memory. Siblings? No memory.
Yesterday? No memories...
She got up from the crate that was her chair, walked out from under the bridge, struggled up the hill, and surveyed the traffic on the walkways in the park.
She shuffled to her usual place under the large elm and began her shift of begging...
When certain folks sneered at her, she smiled back. When they shouted at her as they passed, she said, "Thank you." When they approached and dishonored her and shoved her about, she said, "Bless you."
She usually received enough cash to have her one meal of the day---a hot dog from the street vendor---some days she received just bit more, her "savings"...
The other poor folks couldn't understand why she didn't make up stories, didn't fathom how she could think that just standing there with her hand out would move anyone to put money in it.
They rarely spoke to her---felt it would be bad luck---felt she was beneath them...
There was one other poor woman, though, who would appear about once a month and chat with her. This other woman did make up stories to get money, even cut herself to make certain stories believable.
They never asked each other's names; but, it was easy to tell who followed the normally accepted routines for begging---the once a month visitor had almost normal clothes, she was almost always bathed, she had a bit of perfume smell...
The woman who didn't follow the normal methods of begging thought of her visitor as Ruth, the name of her long-dead mother...
Ruth always began with, "So, how's the needlessly poor little lady?"
"Oh... Getting along; and, how are you?"
"I'm still better off than you, dear---started to make up a few tales?"
"I know, you always say that; but, you can---you really should, too---you're looking worse and worse..."
"I'm just not interested in pretending to be someone I'm not..."
"Yes, yes... Same old story... You have scruples..."
"You could say that..."
"I've said that every time you've told me you can't make up tales to give folks a reason to give you money."
"I just can't..."
"Then, you're bound to suffer."
"We're all bound to suffer..."
"Oh, no. Not that philosophy again---Buddhist or something right?"
"I don't follow any certain religion..."
"Well, I gotta go and make a few more bucks before dusk---best you join the poor folks' religion and start telling people sad tales so they give you some of the money they suffered to get..."
"I'm me, that's all---can't change."
"Sure seems so---you're looking real sickly---think you'll make it through winter?"
And, she left.
Then, there was the day one-eyed Rick came by and told her Ruth was in jail. Seems she'd been in a fight with another of the poor folk and knocked them out; then, they died...
Rick didn't know if Ruth would be sent to the penitentiary but it wasn't looking good.
After Rick left, she said her own kind of little prayer for Ruth.
A few months later, Ruth showed up under the large elm.
"So, how's the needlessly poor little lady?"
"Fine... How are you? Done with the law?"
"Yes. The officials care less for the poor than regular folk.... I think I probably did kill her with that punch..."
"Perhaps... Did she attack you?"
"Grabbed me and started digging for my money stash; but, I can't blame her; not if I killed her over some money..."
"Well, her soul probably just heard you say that and I'm sure she's happy about it."
"I think I know, yes."
She still felt damned and cursed; but, ever since Ruth was let out of jail there was a change in how damned and cursed she felt. Each meeting with Ruth made the damnation and accursedness seem to fade a bit more...
Each get-together had Ruth revealing a new facet of a new view on life. Ruth was definitely on to something---something that was rubbing off---some new attitude about the world...
Around mid-winter, Ruth came by and told her she had an apartment and wanted her to come live there.
"I have a small apartment---got me a small job, apartment came with it."
"You want me to live there?"
"Because you're the nicest other person I know."
"Aren't there some other people with jobs who could pay you a little to move in?"
"There aren't any other people in this jungle of a city that I would trust living with me; besides, you helped me change my views---helped me get that job."
"It's just who you are---you stay nice no matter what---made me think on a few things after I killed that woman. It ain't just this city's a jungle---world's a jungle and you're the only other real human being I've known."
They shared a rare laugh.
Then, Ruth said, "So, let's get under that bridge and grab whatever doesn't smell too much and get over to my apartment."
"I can't believe this..."
"Why, you don't deserve me helping you?"
"I have felt damned---cursed 'cause I couldn't be like others---stuck in being sick-poor..."
"You had the Curse of Morality!"
All the way to the bridge and on to the apartment, they laughed, and they snickered, and they tittered...
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