On the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee

Translated from a Russian website:

The Publican and the Pharisee of Our Day

I was going by train once. At one stop, a bum got in. His face was almost blue in colour and swollen from all the heavy drinking. He was probably around 30. He looked around and started:

“Good people! I have not eaten for three days. I am not lying. I am afraid to steal, because I will have no strength to run away, if caught. But I am very hungry… Please have mercy and help me! And do not look at my face – I drink. And I will probably spend what you give me on drinking, too…” And with that, he went through the train car.

Our people are kind by nature: soon he got about 500 rubles. Before going to the next cart, the bum stopped, turned to the passengers and bowed to them:

“Thank you, good people! may the Lord bless you all!”

And then suddenly one passenger, an angry-looking man in glasses, started screaming: “You no-good lazy piece of shit, begging around! Maybe I have nothing to feed my family with! I got fired three days ago! but I’m not begging around like you, piece of shit!”

Upon hearing this, the bum got all the money out of his pockets, about 2,000 rubles, and handed them over to the man in glasses: “Here, take this. You need this.”

“What?!!”

“You need this more than I do. I can always get more. The people are very kind, merciful!” With that he left the train car and went into the vestibule.

“Hey, hey, wait a minute!” The man in glasses jumped up and, with money in hand, ran out to the vestibule.

Everyone in the car fell silent right away. For five minutes we were all listening to the conversation in the vestibule. The man in glasses shouted that people are shit. The bum replied that people are kind and beautiful. The man tried returning the money to the bum, but the bum didn’t take it back. It ended with the bum going to the next car and his opponent staying in the vestibule for awhile. He lit up a cigarette.

The train stopped at the next station. Some people entered, some exited. The man with glasses finished his cigarette, got back to his seat. No one paid much attention to him.

It was my station and my turn to exit. I got up and before exiting, quickly glanced at the man in glasses. His head was turned away, towards the window. He was crying.

Fr Silouan Thompson

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