Holy Ground

By Patrick McInerney
September 8, 2011

Jesus, help me in my human relationships so that I may always see you in the other person.
Cause me, O blessed Lord, to remember always that you are present to all our words and actions.
May I always listen with respect and speak the truth in charity, and never hurt my neighbor by speaking evil of him or her, when it is better to break the bonds of prejudice and recognize the good, the holy and the beautiful in others.
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I remember the moment very well. It took place many years ago. I was riding my motorbike on a very familiar road in the parish in Lahore. As usual, there was a beggar at the side of the road. In the mornings he sat on the left hand side of the road and in the afternoons he sat on the right hand side of the road. His position was strategically located to catch people going to and coming home from work. Besides, moving from one side of the road to the other kept him in the shade as the sun passed over the city from east to west.

There was also a street sweeper brushing rubbish and refuse along the gutter. It is a dirty, dusty, unpleasant job and those who do it are looked down upon as unclean. Most sweepers in Lahore are Christians, so he was probably my parishioner. This street was obviously his patch, his daily task, and he knew all the people on it.

As the sweeper neared the beggar he stooped down, gave him a cigarette and lit it for him. Together, the two of them enjoyed a moment’s respite from their daily labors which provided them a meager income but also brought upon them the scorn and derision of society.

As I passed by I thought: “Here is Muslim and a Christian. One is a beggar and the other is a sweeper. They are both outcastes, rejects from society. But they are showing respect and kindness to each other. This place is holy ground.” And ever since, whenever I pass that spot, I remember the witness of those two men who showed me how we all should live.

Every time we let go of prejudice and stereotypes and respect the dignity of each person, no matter their race, gender, creed or social status, we create “sacred spaces” and the Kingdom of God has come among us.

P.S. I acknowledge that tobacco products are unhealthy so the story is politically incorrect, but what really matters is the respect and courtesy that these two people showed each other, the celebration of human dignity that transcends any and every discrimination.