Carlota opened her eyes and gratefully looked at a firmament that God in life gave her as she did every morning. It was a shining sun that announced a beautiful day, and she felt lucky. Unlike so many thousands of human beings who acted like automatons self-absorbed in their environment, completely forgetful of nature, Carlota lived in full awareness of the wonders that surrounded her. She enjoyed it like a true miracle, the birds singing as much as the rays of the sun coming through her window. She knew that living was a gift to be cherished to the fullest and for which she should be grateful.
And so she did every morning, clasping her hands together and raising a prayer to heaven. Carlota worked as a waitress. On her usual morning, she took the bus from her home to the restaurant where she worked. As the bus drove through the streets of the city, Carlota remembered her childhood in the faraway town where she was born.
There, her father had committed suicide because of the deaths that plagued him, and her mother had been depressed for years until she lost her mind and was committed to a mental hospital. The authorities considered placing Carlota up for adoption, but the adoption process took many months, and before a foster home could be found, the young girl had already reached the age of majority and was abandoned to her faint. For weeks, Carlota thought she would die without her parents, and with an enormous sadness in her heart, she believed it all was lost. Little by little, she sold at any price, any and every object she found in the house to buy and little food to survive with. But she had no way to pay the water, electricity, and gas bills.
And before the new year, she was forced to sell the house to the first opportunist, who offered her a few cents in exchange for the property. And just then, when Carlota hit rock bottom and nothing seemed to be getting better, the young woman discovered what she was capable of. She told herself that the time for crying was over and that it was time to look life in the face and face it.
With the little money she received from the sale of the house, she bought a ticket to the country’s capital, where she visited each and every restaurant in the city, offering her services to Cook. Cooking was the only thing she knew how to do in her life. It was the only thing her mother had taught her. Unfortunately, none of the restaurants were willing to leave the kitchen in the hands of someone so young who had no previous work experience. The door seemed to be closing for Carlota, and the scenario was not at all encouraging.
But then she got the call she had been waiting for the owner of one of the restaurants she’d applied her told her she didn’t need anyone else in the kitchen but that she had a position as a waitress. Carlota willing to take on any job that would allow her to survive accepted. At first it was hard for her to adapt, but in time she became one of the best workers in the entire restaurant, recognized by the customers as helpful and efficient and with the full confidence of her boss. Little by little her salary improved, and she was able to settle in a small apartment where she’d been living for years with total peace of mind. And now, as she rode the bus to her job, she remembered all she had to go through to get to where she was and felt proud.
Reviewing her hard years was something she did every day she went to work. She reminded herself of it, to give herself strength and to keep going and thank God for the many blessings she received. The bus stopped at the station, and Carlota walked a few meters to the restaurant, where she began another day at work. Around 02:00 p.m. Carlota saw a beggar child eating garbage in front of her.
It was the third time that week that she’d seen him. Her duties as a waitress didn’t include taking care of beggars who came to the restaurant to ask for food, but after so many years of working there, her sense of belonging was great. She felt the business as her own, and she was affected by anything that, in her opinion, could harm the restaurant. That’s why she used to ask the beggars to leave with that boy. She hadn’t dared precisely because he was a boy, but she told herself that if she saw him again the next day, she’d tell him to please not come back there.
Carlota finished her work day at 06:00 in the evening and as every day took the bus back home. But she didn’t stop at her house but at the Church where she attended mass every day. There she listened with pleasure to the Eucharist of a priest, in which, reflecting on the parable of the Good Samaritan, he spoke about mercy, about helping others in the solidarity with those in need. Carlota felt internally each of the priest’s reflections. She felt closer to God in that ceremony, and she was purified after receiving Communion.
When she arrived home, she did so, feeling like a good Christian calm of her good behavior. With her hands, she raised the last prayer to heaven and went to bed to sleep. The next day, Carlota repeated each one of the acts of the previous day, woke up, went to the window, enjoyed the sun and birds singing, prayed, got ready, took the bus to her job, remembered her difficult years, and felt proud of having overcome them. She arrived at the restaurant and went to work. And just like the day before, at around 02:00 in the afternoon, she saw the beggar boy eating garbage in front of the restaurant.
Carlota did notice that of all the people there, she was the only one who seemed to notice the little boy. The customers ate their meals without turning to look at him, and even those who passed by seemed not to see him. Only she saw him. And just as she had promised herself the day before, she decided to approach the little boy to ask him to leave the restaurant. But when she did, she was speechless.
Once in front of the little one, Carlota felt completely strange. It was as if for a moment she had stopped being there in the restaurant, to be transported to a place out of time and without knowing what was happening. And before she could articulate a single word, she heard a voice addressing her. Carlota knew it was the voice of the child, although she couldn’t see him anywhere, and although he sounded like an adult, the voice said to her, Carlota, you come to me every day. In the morning.
When you wake up in the afternoon, when you go to Mass, at night, when you go to sleep, you read the Bible, you listen to my teachings. You thank me if you feel pure, but you have understood nothing. You do not practice what you preach. Your faith is reduced to a monotonous and empty prayer. But when the needy asks you for help, you ignore it.
After hearing these words, Carlota saw herself in front of the restaurant where she worked, and the child was nowhere to be found that day. The woman worked with difficulty. She couldn’t concentrate and anxiously counted the hours until six to be able to leave that place. When the workday finally ended, the young woman didn’t take a bus. As usual, she walked home, wanting to take a walk, get some air, and clear her mind.
She wanted to understand what had happened to her that afternoon. As she walked, Carlota saw beggars everywhere and began to reflect. She realized that having overcome the hard times in her life through discipline and hard work, she had convinced herself that everyone in life could do the same. If someone asked for money, it was probably because of laziness, because everyone could do better by working hard. But she understood that she was wrong.
She’d been privileged, but not everyone had the opportunity to get ahead. Carlota continued to be a woman of faith, but from that day on, her faith was not reduced to prayer. Now she also acted. Now, at the end of her work day, Carlota would ask the owner of the restaurant to donate all the food from the kitchen that hadn’t been sold that day. And she would go through the streets to the city, distributing it to the needy.