Do You Have A Donkey ?

Dr. Gamal B. Malak found his son Tharwat waiting for him in the foyer of their house.

“Where is your sister?”

“She is going to come a little later in her car.”

“Are you coming with me, or you want to go in your car as well?” Malak challenged his son.

“Dad, don’t start this again. Of course, I shall go in my car; so I don’t have to come back with you. I shall spend some time with my friends after church.” The son answered dryly

“So we all drive and spend all this money on gas. Do you think money grows on trees?”

“Again we shall sing this song. Why don’t you ask Mom to join you instead of driving her car?”

“That will be the day.” Dr. Malak yelled as he went out the door and slammed it behind him.

When the good doctor returned back from church that day, he was in for an alarming surprise. As he walked into the reception hall of his big house, he found his daughter Hoda entertaining a crusty looking young man, though sharp and handsome, appeared to be quite unrefined.

               “There are many ways you can learn English fast…Oh, Daddy, this is Girgis. We met Friday in the youth meeting. He just arrived from Egypt a few weeks ago, and he is now serving in the church.”

Malak could not hide his disgust completely as he scrutinized the stranger closely. Girgis broke into a wide smile extending his hand to Dr. Malak who reluctantly touched it in a lukewarm handshake.

               “What do you do Girgis?”

               “I am well thank you Doctor.” Girgis answered in a broken English accent.

               “I did not ask how do you do…I asked what do you do.” Malak repeated sarcastically.

               “Daddy is asking what profession you are into Girgis” Hoda interfered giving her father a sharp angry look, “I believe you are into accounting, right?”

The young man became visibly uncomfortable. After a moment of hesitation he answered,

               “N…No, I do paint…painting.”

               “You see Daddy, Girgis is an artist.”

               “Why did you come to America? You cannot even speak the language?” Malak asked.

               “For the same reason you Daddy came with Mom thirty years ago.” Tharwat answered as he entered the room, “Girgis will stay for dinner with us, right?”

Dr. Malak glanced at his son furiously saying, “come with me, I have to talk to you” he grabbed Tharwat by the arm and walked out of the room.

At the dinner table all the family was seated after adding an extra chair for the guest who sat between Hoda and her brother. Mrs. Malak was about to start eating when the visitor asked, “Are we going to pray first?” the daughter started immediately to recite the Lord’s prayer loudly.

For several minutes, everybody was eating silently, as all eyes were watching how their guest is struggling with his knife and fork. Finally, Mrs. Malak quietly asked, “which town you come from Girgis?”

               “Town?…Ah…I mean…I lived all my life in Sahragt. This is in Dakahelia.”

               “This is in northern Egypt or southern Egypt?” asked Dr. Malak.

               “No doctor, this is in lower Egypt…in the delta area.”

               “So, in this town Sahgaat do you have a donkey? Or do they have cars there?” the doctor asked.

               “Sahragt…doctor. And yes. There … three …three rich people … have cars. Of course, most farmers have donkeys.” Girgis answered unable to detect the sarcasm in the dialogue.

               “Do you have a family here in America Girgis?” Mrs. Malak asked.

“No Madam, all my family is still in Sahragt.”

“So, how did you happen to come to the US?”

“The lottery…I won the…the lottery.”

“Yea yea yeah…the lottery of course. The indiscriminate idiotic system that brings all the riffraff and dumps them on our shoulders.” The doctor mumbled as Girgis looked inquisitively at Tharwat.

After dinner, Mrs. Malak retired to her room while the housekeeper started to clear the table. The two young men went back to the reception hall. Girgis could hear Dr. Malak yelling at his daughter in the next room, “They will always ask for money or some freebies. I know the kind. So, if he needs a little money or some food it is OK, give it to him, understand, but no more communication with the likes of these people and most emphatically no more bringing in someone like that here in my house.”

The young man could not understand all the words clearly, but he realized the overall meaning of the outbreak. The Daughter’s answer was muted and unclear. She soon emerged into the reception hall with an extremely angry face, which could not be masked by the fake smile she struggled to manufacture. The unwelcome visitor sensing the tension, turned to Tharwat asking, “There is bus here…can take to my room?”

               “Don’t be silly, I shall drive you back to your home?”

It was six months later, when Dr. Malak’s family went on vacation and he had to stay behind for business reasons. He was invited to the house of his cousin Anton, an hour’s drive away, to have lunch and talk some financial arrangements. The two cousins sat in the spacious kitchen sipping their drinks and nibbling on some snacks. Anton asked, “How are they doing in Florida?”

               “They are fine of course. They are spending my money, what do you expect.” They laughed heartily

               “Of course, of course… you are so generous.” Anton jabbed his cousin, “knowing you, you shall remind them of this all year long.”

               “I have to find some way to make up for these expenses.  Did you talk to your friend about the property we shall see next week?”

               “Yes. It seems to be a good deal. By the way, he introduced me to a fine young man whom he employed to work on some of these properties. I was so impressed that I asked him to restore and redecorate my basement. Come. Let me introduce him to you.” Anton put down his glass and led his cousin down the stairs to the basement.

On a two-step ladder, the young man was busy painting part of the wall. When he heard the voices behind him he turned around and climbed down to meet the two men.

               “This is Girgis, the young man I talked about”

For a moment, there was an awkward silence. Malak looked in disdain at the young man’s face and clothes blotched with various paints while Girgis, trying to wipe his dirty hand smiled saying, “Hello Doctor Malak”

               “Eh, you two know each other?” Anton asked.

“Yes I met Girgis before.” Malak answered tartly.

               “Dr. Malak was kind enough to give me dinner in his house.” Girgis explained.

Anton burst into laughter, “you must have impressed him so much Girgis. Rarely anybody would get such privilege unless they are members of his Faculty or business associates.”

               “So, how do you like it in America Girgis? Did you finally buy a donkey?” asked Malak mockingly?

               “Yes Doctor, I like America very much. I bought a donkey too…A Chevrolet donkey,” the young man answered trying to be funny.

               “I see… you can talk now…pretty soon you are going to look like a human being.”

Anton did not like the comment, “why, Girgis is one of the finest human beings I ever met. Do you know that since he bought his car, he goes around giving a ride to and from the Church to any newcomer among the new immigrants?”

               “Yes, he even ensnared Tharwat and Hoda into giving English lessons to those ignorant people.” Replied the good doctor.

               “Oh My…Girgis, you are such a wonderful man.” Shouted Anton.

They heard the front door open and shut upstairs, so Anton said, “My wife and the kids have arrived, let’s get ready for lunch guys…Girgis, please wash up and get ready to join us upstairs.”

               “I sorry Mr. Anton, I must finish this remain part here before I leave. I promised my friend Adel take him to the doctor.”

               “Nonsense, leave everything now, and come to eat. Then you can go see your friend. You can finish this work later.”

The following week was Palm Sunday. The church was crowded. Mrs. Malak who has just returned from vacation was sitting in the first row as usual. Mr. Anton was seated next to his cousin Gamal three rows from the front. Tharwat was sitting next to Girgis at the back of the church near the entrance while Hoda was standing in the ladies aisle helping other ladies find a place in the crowded pews. A big young man walked in through the door, saw how crowded the church was, then he quietly approached Girgis and said, “This is my seat, get out and find yourself another place.” The young man was puzzled for a moment and did not know what to say. Then the bully grabbed his hand pulled him out of the seat and took his place. Nobody around made an effort to challenge the big guy. Embarrassed, Girgis moved outside the door and hid his face behind it. Tharwat was furious. He left his seat and went to stand next to Girgis.

               “How can he do this?” Girgis asked in a voice shaking with anger.

“He is the son of an influential rich man. I am sorry Girgis.”

Everybody stood up for the Bible reading… The priest reached a part where he hesitated for a moment and then continued ..

               “…Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them…”

When the Bible reading ended, Father Mina approached the podium to give the sermon. He was an old man with a long flowing white beard and beaming smile. He started to explain the events of the day and to contemplate on their meaning…

               “…My friends, nowadays we do not have donkeys tethered at our front doors. We have instead Cadillacs and Chevrolets parked in our garages. But the same still applies. Back then, the donkey was the most important possession of any family… Those people whose names we shall never know, had earnestly and willingly given their donkey to the disciples because “the Lord had need of it” right now I am sad to say, some of us love their donkeys more than they love their own children. I saw some members of the church adore and almost worship their cars. Do you think if Christ our Lord sends you a message asking ‘Give me your donkey for I have need of it, you shall happily offer what you have for him?’ …There were so many people involved in today’s events, but the owners of that donkey went unnoticed and unknown. Yet I tell you they were known to Him…and He was known to them. There were hundreds and may be thousands of others who owned donkeys and horses and fine steeds, But he chose those whom he knew that they would not turn Him down. Let me ask you my friends again…do you have a donkey for Christ?”