28 December 2010

The Moneychanger

We can all be forgiven for thinking that a moneychanger is somebody one goes to if one wishes to exchange currencies. We are, after all, a nation of OFWs; and there are moneychanger shops just about everywhere.

Yesterday, I attended a luncheon party and discovered that a moneychanger can be somebody other than what you and I would think as a matter of course. I was, to put it plain and simply, at a loss for words.

As things happened, I was with former colleagues and we were happily catching up on each other when we were joined at our table by diocesan priests. The awkward moment that resulted from strangers being seated together around a common table lasted briefly because one of the clerics was talkative.

Most of the things he was saying were just things we politely nodded to and said a “yeah-yeah” now and again. Then he came around to talking about somebody that his parishioners simply referred to as the “moneychanger.” His description of the moneychanger did not connect in my head with what he was talking about that I felt impelled to say, “Sorry?”

The moneychanger, the cleric explained, used to be one of the volunteers in his church who went around during the Offertory with their cloth sacks hanging from a wooden pole collecting donations from churchgoers. When it was time to unload the contents of the sacks to the collections receptacle, the volunteer simply held on to the end of each sack – thereby catching whatever coins and bills were erstwhile at the bottom of the sack.

I suppose the volunteer eventually went back when nobody was around to collect the day’s loot. Not that it went unnoticed; in fact, it was from the other volunteers that the cleric discovered the name “moneychanger.” Shaking his head sadly and also with wry humor, the cleric went on to say that it was only when that particular volunteer was sent packing that they all realized how much the church was losing from the pilferage. A lot…

Honestly, I was completely at a loss for words to say for long moments after the priest concluded his story. How can people do that? I know desperation drives people over the edge to do so many unspeakable things. But against the Church itself? Sometimes I just wonder if there are just way too many people in the world these days that there are just those who were born without souls.

My former boss added to the story, narrating that his Mom, who used to volunteer her services whenever there were disaster relief operations, also used to get so angry at the things other supposed volunteers did with the donations that came in from other countries. The imported brands, she saw with her own eyes, were quickly being replaced with 555 sardines, can you believe that!

My Mom had a very colorful term to describe people like these: bantay-salakay. I know people like these care not a bit about eternal damnation; still, when they do go, I hope they burn in hell for all eternity!





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