In 80 degree heat, hurrying through crowds we stopped to watch this quiet white dog. I don’t read Italian but the message on the cardboard seemed clear enough. Though we had passed many beggars with cups held out, I felt I wanted to give to this man and his dog. The man gave his songs and the sweetness of his furry, pink beribboned terrier. A clean baguette and water bowl lay on the sidewalk.
As I walked slowly toward them, the dog did not turn his head.
The sun-tanned Italian looked at me and continued to strum and sing.
I put Euros in their bowl. Then moved to the other side to watch another woman drop in a donation. As the musician continued to sing his gentle ballad, I noticed I felt generous because he offered his voice and instrument freely. An opening to life, a generous, however humble, gift of song.
In the deep shade, he had chosen to sit, keeping his furry friend cool, I felt more inspired than I had in all the churches we had visited in Italy. This man loved his dog. He completed a song, propping his guitar against the stone wall. When he spoke his dog turned and came to him, dragging a thin leash. The man tenderly raised his beloved dog. He slowly searched fur and paws for dirt and rocks, cleaning and speaking softly.
Most religions teach love. Love in action, showers us with care and kindness. This moment in time glows as his dog rests in his arms, lids lowered and drowsy.
“Name’s Julia,” said the white-haired guitarist.
I said, “She’s such pretty and calm dog.”
“Julia is man’s name,” he murmured.
“Oh, thanks,” I said, nodded goodbye and walked away.
Later that night, friends in Florence laughed when I showed them the photograph. The wife said “The sign says, ‘We are hungry.'”