Two hand-made cards and nearly a parking ticket

I pulled up on Norton St near the Palace Cinemas on my way home from an early Saturday morning appointment.
Two skim whites from Berkelouw were in my sights and as I took my free half-hour parking ticket and placed it on the dash, I noticed the little, older man who is often seen around Leichhardt selling hand-made cards.

He was wearing an unzipped tracksuit top over a t-shirt and below were a pair of long, shiny soccer shorts that were at least three sizes two big. Some thongs over socks completed his attire along with a bag slung over one shoulder.
It was a cold morning, he was under-dressed and I decided I would buy the inevitably proferred card. As I walked down Norton he noticed me, and began his distinctive card selling routine. He reached deep into his bag and pulled out the small paper card. His arm then snapped out to full length with the card facing him and he stared at it intently. Satisfied with what he saw he then extended his arm in my direction with the face of the card towards me, and waited.

As I drew closer, I stuck my hand in my jean pocket and pulled out a dollar coin, said hello, smiled, exchanged the coin for the card, wished him a good day and headed towards the cafe. He didn’t speak or smile. Everyone else I saw on the street walked past.

In the more comfortable world of the cafe, with the smell of Campos and the buzz of conversation, the chasm between our worlds opened up and I felt guilty for my one dollar.

Walking back, the thought crossed my mind that I could stay on the opposite side of the road and cross closer to the car, avoiding the card man. There was a slight yearning for this within me, I didn’t really want to bother with the card man’s need. Although it was morning at the start of the weekend I was deeply tired.

But I owe too much to Someone else to give in so easily so I headed back towards the man and he went through his card presentation routine.

As I juggled the coffees and pulled out my wallet, I reminded myself I was doing no great thing, that the man had brought his hand-made cards to stand for hours in the cold to be ignored by most people to earn a few coins. This was were the courage and commitment lay.

‘I’ll have one thanks,’ I said. There was no sign of recognition of the previous purchase. 

‘I’m Peter, what’s your name?’ There was a harsh throaty reply but I couldn’t make it out.

‘Sorry?’

The same reply and I was none the wiser. I looked at the card, it had on it just the word ‘love’.

I fiddled in my wallet, saw a ten – still that persistent reluctance – but grabbed the twenty.

As I gave it to the man he looked at me, and then looked at the note for several seconds. He looked at me again as if to confirm I was sure, and then in one motion the note was flicked out of view as he turned and walked quickly down the street, presumably happy now with his morning’s work.

As I walked towards the car I reminded myself that I didn’t pay the money to have the man fawn over me or so I could look good. Any act of kindness or generosity must be enough for its own sake.

Nearing the car, I saw a flouro-vested, female parking inspector standing near the bonnet.

‘Hello, is everything okay?’

She looked at me with an expression of fear and astonishment. I realised she was about to book me, and confused, I opened the car door, still balancing the treasured coffees, to show her the ticket I had placed under the windscreen.

It was then I realised I had placed it upside down, distracted at the time by watching the card man. These could become very expensive cards, I thought.

I held the ticket towards the parking inspector, in a proferring routine reminiscent of the card man’s.

‘Sorry I didn’t realise it was upside down!’

‘Well I can’t read it if I can’t see it can I love,’ she said, finding her voice after realising I wasn’t going to yell at her.

She studied it intently and gave me a small nod and seemed to clear an entry in her little hand-held machine.

‘Thank you’ I said realising how close I’d come to a fine. I wondered how quickly my feelings of mercy and resolve to do good would have evaporated when faced with a parking ticket.

I laughed at myself, sipped my coffee and reflected on who had been kind to who and the apparent randomness of life which is less random than we may think.

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Huge Chinese mattress hides $US1.4 trillion…

There is no political, social, educational or philosophical quick-fix for human nature. Figures showing the growing gap between the rich and poor in so-called communist China highlight this once again.

Despite decades of communist indoctrination and more recently, greater freedoms and openness to world markets, the Chinese people still like to keep money under their mattress so they can spend it on ‘things’.

And like anything in China, or India for that matter, that’s one big mattress.

A study conducted for Credit Suisse Group shows that China’s households hide as much as 9.3 trillion yuan ($US1.4 trillion) of income not reported in official figures – 80 per cent of it by the nation’s wealthiest.

One reason economists believe this figure is because the strongest area of economic demand in China right now is the domestic purchase of consumer items from designer handbags to flat screen televisions.

Taking the mattress cash figure into account, it turns out the average urban disposable household income is 32,154 yuan, or 90 per cent more than official figures. The bad news is that this means China’s rich-poor gap is most likely much bigger than realised.

The Gini coefficient is a single statistic used by economists to summarise the distribution of income across the population.Read More »

Millionaire gives away fortune after pact with God

Sandwiched between the headlines ‘Sex claims: Hey Dad star to see police’ and ‘Drunk charged after trying to revive dead possum’ is the news that a British millionaire is to give most of his empire to charity after making a ‘pact with God’.

Albert Gubay was broke and selling lollies in Wales after World War 2 when he told God in his prayers, ‘Make me a millionaire and you can have half of my money.’

The devout Catholic has exceeded his side of the bargain, as has God, with Gubay giving to charity all but 10 million pounds of his 480 million pound ($787 million AUD) fortune to charity.

The Albert Gubay Charitable Foundation is required to invest about half of the money into the Catholic Church and the rest can be used at the discretion of the charity’s board.

Gubay made his money through Kwik Save grocery stores and Fitness First gyms, both of which he sold before investing in property.

While I doubt God makes bargains like that, he answers prayer and blesses faith and integrity which Mr Gubay seems to possess, along with keen business skills.

Faith, prayer, hard work, gifting and generosity – a great recipe for success. PH

Source: SMH

Easter symbolism ‘abounds’ in Sydney

As we approach Easter Holy Week it is no surprise that even secular Sydney is abounding in religious symbolism.

Taking pride of place in Martin Place, resplendent in gold and several metres high, is the well-known pagan symbol for fertility, the rabbit.

Alongside this touching symbol, I’m sure I caught a glimpse of the post-modern symbol for significance, the $. Of course we are well accustomed to finding this crafty, curly symbol lurking somewhere around ancient Christian festivals.

Mmm… Must be time for a hot cross bun. I wonder what this cross business is all about? PH

No knee caps

“How are you going today, George?” I ask while standing in line for a meal at the Lambert St Lunch, Camperdown.

George is 60ish with long gray hair and unshaven face; is wearing a t-shirt, too-small shorts and joggers and carries his walking stick.

“Oh, not that good. I nearly fell over on the way here.”

“That’s no good,” I reply. “What happened?”

“Have you ever had your leg just slide out, like this, while your walking,” he says while demonstrating a strange sideward leg movement, precariously. A lunch volunteer, plate of food in hand, is watching as our conversation unfolds.

“Maybe George, but have you had that happen?”

“All the time,” he says seriously. “It’s probably because I’ve got no knee caps, so I’ve got to be careful.”Read More »