By Sister Nancy Linenkugel, OSF
Not finding anywhere else to sit for the 23 minute wait until the airline shuttle arrived, I took a well-worn spot on a lateral concrete planter nearby. From the shiny surface it was clear that I wasn’t the first to have that idea.
At the other end of the planter was an older African-American woman holding a battered “World’s Finest Candy” box carrier. Could this candy company still be in business, I wondered? I recall selling that brand decades ago as an elementary student at Little Flower School in Toledo. Her carton contained a variety of candy bars available at most checkout counters today so she was just recycling the cardboard box.
As people passed by, she said in a gentle, almost whisper-like voice, “One dollar. One-dollar-one-dollar-one-dollar.” Folks continuously walked by but not many noticed her.
Then a scruffy-looking man sat down on the concrete planter between us. The Candy Lady held out the box to him and said in her sing-song voice, “One dollar. Only one dollar.” The young man was interested and responded, “What are you selling the candy for?” “This is for the church,” she said smilingly. The young man, maybe age 30 or so, wore tattered jeans and an ill-fitting “Uzi Does It” t-shirt with a machine gun image. He had a scraggly beard and wore a raggedy ball cap. “Sure. If it’s for the church, I’m in,” he said as he rummaged through his pocket. He found a crumpled $5 bill plus a collection of change. He patiently counted out the change – $1.16 to be exact – more than enough to buy the dollar candy bar.
He and the lady exchanged the coins for one candy bar. Then he started helping the lady’s cause by calling out to passersby, “You. Hey, you. Yeah, I’m talking to you. Buy some candy from the lady. It’s for the church.” He repeated this to several persons, and finally a teenage boy came over and said, “I’d like to help but all I have is these two dollars and I need them for bus fare. This is all I’ve got.”
Undaunted, Mr. Scruffy took off one of his mud-crusted boots, inserted his hand into the boot, pulled out two shoe liners, and extracted three carefully saved bus passes stashed between the liners. “Here,” he said, “Take this pass. I bought it this morning and it’s good all day. Go ahead – take it.” Reluctantly the other fellow accepted the gift. “Now buy some candy from the lady. It’s for the church. Come on, you showed me your two dollars so I know you can afford one candy bar.”
So the younger fellow did hand over $1 for candy. Mr. Scruffy was satisfied, the Candy Lady made two sales, the teenager got some candy, and I marveled how Franciscan the world was without me. What a spirit of giving.
ADDENDUM: In addition to the Candy Lady and Mr. Scruffy, I want to share about two more remarkable persons I met recently.
On Sunday, August 14, 2016, I played in the national MMG (Medical Musical Group) in Alexandria VA with other orchestra and chorus members from across the country. As usual, there were several celebrity emcees and “Music with a Message” program narrators. I had a special connection with two of them.
The first is Deana Martin, daughter of Steubenville native Dean Martin (Dino Crocetti), who is an entertainer herself living in Branson MO. We ended up chatting as she awaited transportation to the concert venue. I told her that I was a Sylvania Franciscan (she started smiling), that I had ministered at St. John Medical Center in Steubenville (she smiled more) and that I could still picture the bronze plaque on the wall in appreciation of the generosity of Mrs. Crocetti and her son, Dino (she was really smiling now and nodding her head.) She beamed and said, “Yes, our family loved the hospital and I think we provided the Cobalt Unit, isn’t that right?” Indeed, it was correct. And the family foundation also contributed to Pediatrics every Christmas. Sr. Agatha and Mrs. Crocetti were good friends.
The second is Shakespearean actor Michael York. In the concert script, Michael was to introduce me since I was giving the welcome on behalf of the orchestra and chorus members. Michael and I talked about how to pronounce my last name and then I told him that I thought his portrayal of John the Baptist in JESUS OF NAZARETH was stunning and exactly how I picture JtB to have been. Michael was very gracious, thanked me for the compliment, and responded, “Yes, I liked that part. But it’s a very difficult thing to do as an actor when it’s all about ‘you decreasing and Him increasing’. Actors don’t decrease easily. I worked really hard on that.”
The Franciscan spirit is everywhere.