As I stepped off of the train, my dad and I walked side by side into the Italian city of Florence. My eyes were wandering as my dad reached into his pocket to retrieve the map of the town. Cars and buses whizzed by on the streets, laying on their horns as if that would force the congestion of the city to suddenly diminish. On the sidewalks, the same kind of attitude was present. Locals rushed impatiently past us focusing only on their destination. One middle aged woman was in such a rush that she practically plowed right into me, like I was invisible. As my dad and I finally began strolling down the road, we began to walk further into the historical area of the town. The wide asphalt streets turned into narrow cobblestone paths and the contemporary stores now became historical buildings.
At the center of Florence, we reached the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, a massive gothic church built in the 1400s. Gathered outside of the 20 foot doors were tourists admiring the beautiful architecture of the church. Amongst the many tourists there was a man who stuck out to me. He was an older Italian man, probably in his early 60s. He wore a pair of ratted old khakis with a dirty white shirt. I watched him for a few minutes, trying to figure out what he was doing, as he approached every tourist that exited the building. Then, I saw him hold out his only possession, a small cardboard box, begging for money. I witnessed several people that shook their heads and others that just walked right past him, as if he didn’t exist. It doesn’t matter if someone is wealthy or struggling to afford basic necessities, I believe that everyone should be treated equally. Just because the man didn’t have abundance of money, didn’t give the people a right to ignore him and act as if they were a level above him.
I felt sympathy for the man because he was being treated so disgracefully and obviously had nothing. I walked in his direction and slowly stopped in front of him. As I placed 20 Euros in his empty box, he looked up at me and gave me a huge smile. While I was walking away, I noticed that a couple more people had followed my gesture to give their money and kindness to the man, like I had.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.