I am learning so much about this culture. Little Marias are the elderly women, mostly those who have very little, but these are the saintly women who donate to those who beg on the streets.
Begging sounds the wrong word as the women stand at a street corner, perhaps, with their empty palm in front of them. Some say a few words to a passerby but I have never felt pressured to give to any of them, male or female.
I have seen a Little Maria give a plastic carrier bag of food and others give a few coins. Their reasoning I am told is that these women have nothing but they have children to feed and care for.
There’s a man who sleeps in a sleeping bag under the cover of one of the entrances to my square. I am told he is Scottish and also that he has a dog. I have never seen the dog because the dog is asleep with his master under the orange and grey quilt. Local cafe owners place food, wrapped in tinfoil by the sleeping man and sometimes there is coffee or tea, I assume, in a polystyrene cup.
There’s a very well-dressed lady who begs near Dunnes or the main road on the way to the bus station. One wonders what has reduced her to this as she is so neatly dressed one would expect she worked in an office or something similar.
I don’t give to any of them as I never have money in my hand and won’t open my handbag or purse in the street. My way of giving is going into Lux Mundi and buying a coffee or something in there as all profits from any involvement goes to feeding the thirty or so homeless people they care for every day. Going on an outing with the U3A, a coffee morning, a social night, a quiz, a concert – all profits are donated to Luz Mundi to carry on their good work.
The group, who have kindly included me, have a lunch in Danny’s pub on the first Monday of each month. One of the ladies who is health and safety qualified prepares all the dishes and we pay the princely sum of €3 for a main course and €2 if we want seconds. There’s a good number turn up for this and last Monday was so hot I was glad to sit inside the pub. There were a crowd of Danish people outside the pub enjoying the clear blue sky and sunshine. There is always a raffle afterwards and almost €100 was raised which is to be split between a local charity for children with disabilities and a connection in Africa.
There are people doing good everywhere but they don’t make the headlines.
I am now on the countdown to leaving this lovely place and heading home. It’s been a traumatic time as over a couple of weeks I lost two of my oldest friends and that has been hard to come to terms with. It’s easy to say remember the good times and we did have many good times. But the sense of loss is hard at times.
Forty years ago we were so full of energy and the party spirit when we arrived at one of the late friend’s house in Edinburgh, her nine year old Catholic-educated daughter would open the door and say, ‘You’re here again! It’s not fair! I will never get to school!’ And she never did whilst we were there partying the days and nights away. Happy memories.