Sunday, August 12, 2012

Angels can come in all shapes and sizes

The following anecdote was the feature in today's Sunday missalette:

It was a freezing day during the Depression. The judge was hearing a case against a woman who'd stolen some bread to feed her starving grandchildren. The show owner wouldn't drop the charges. He thought it was time someone made an example of such people! Reluctantly, the judge had to enforce the law, sentencing the woman to a ten dollar fine. He pointed out that failure to pay would result in a prison term.  However, even as he passed sentence, he took out his wallet to pay the fine himself. He removed his wig, put the ten dollars in it, and asked the bailiff to collect fifty cents from everyone else in the courtroom.

He told the people they deserved to pay this fine for living in a place where someone had to steal bread to care for her grandchildren.  The collection amounted to forty eight dollars and fifty cents, including fifty cents from the man who'd brought the charges. The accused was given the money, and as she left the court, the just received a standing ovation (Based on a story recounted by James N. McCutcheon).

Reading this piece this morning, I couldn't help but remember that haunting 1993 photograph which won the Pulitzer Prize. The photo was taken by Kevin Carter in Sudan, was widely published and became the 'metaphor for Africa's despair'. Though the photographer was also criticised for failing to 'act socially towards the child' and was likened to the bird of prey himself for using the photo for financial gain, the image was just so powerful that it made the world more aware of the atrocities happening in South Africa.

Photograph: Kevin Carter, 1993
(1994 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography)

Put together the messages of the judge's kind act and the woeful plight of the hungry South African child, these are still issues we face today. Though much has changed from the times of the Depression and from the South African political unrest, food scarcity is still a prevalent global problem. Using the inverse of the missalette's message of reflecting on how alert we are to an angel's touch when we experience it in our lives, perhaps we could likewise ponder more on how we can correspond to those everyday 'calls' to act socially responsible.

Labels: , , ,