Up Front and Personal

The Saints on the Streets of Brooklyn

by Frank Derosa

When Bishop Thomas Daily was retiring as the leader of the Brooklyn Diocese, he told a New York Times reporter in an interview that the diocese’s “greatest treasure” was its people. “I know that in the streets you can find evil, you pick up the papers and you can see it,” he said. “But I’ve got to tell you, there are saints walking the streets of Brooklyn.”

With All Saints Day at hand, I’m reminded of one who may not be remembered formally on Nov. 1, but who fits the type of saint Bishop Daily talked about. This one walked the streets of Williamsburg.

One evening after a long day in the office, I headed to the parking lot, flopped down into the seat of my car, turned the ignition key – and nothing. The engine had chosen to go on a leave of absence. A call to my motoring plan led to a long wait before a tow truck arrived. Hard as he tried, the operator had no luck starting the engine. Off he went with my car in tow to a garage in Williamsburg. And I headed for the train.

The next evening after work I got a lift to the garage, ready to pay for the repairs and drive home. It was well after five. The lady in the office – a nighttime dispatcher – took out the paperwork and stopped when she saw I had a credit card. “No credit card and no check after five,” she said. “Cash only. The owner’s policy.” The bill was $279. I didn’t have it.

Clearly feeling sympathy for me, she said, “There’s a gas station two blocks away with an ATM machine. You can get cash there.” It had begun to pour and I had no umbrella. She ran out to her car and came back with a powder blue ladies model. “Use this,” she said.

Sloshing along as 18-wheelers sprayed me, I reaching the gas station. I found the ATM, entered my card, but it was rejected. No cash. The attendant wouldn’t cash a check but said a check-cashing store was around the corner. I went there. Closed. Back to the lady who owned the umbrella.

The saint-in-waiting wanted to help, I could tell. After a couple of minutes, she muttered the words, “birthday money.” Picking up the phone, she dialed someone I later learned was her son. “How much did you get for your birthday?” She heard his response, then said, “Withdraw it from the bank and bring it here.”

The young man arrived with cash – $300.  “I’ll pay the $279,” she said, turning to me, “and I’ll meet you tomorrow morning and you can pay me back.” Incredible, but true. I’d never seen her before. Didn’t even know her name. I couldn’t thank her enough. I left her a blank check.

The next morning I met her across from a popular local pastry shop. Probably appearing like someone who needed a fix, I handed her an envelope bulging with 15 $20 bills. She took it, counted it, then warned, “Never give anybody you don’t know a blank check and handed it back.” We laughed, and off she ambled down the street.

I had the honor of meeting Blessed Mother Teresa and Blessed John Paul II, both en route to canonization. I’ll remember them on All Saints Day.  And I’ll remember a non-canonized one, the kind Bishop Daily had in mind. [hr] Frank DeRosa is the retired Public Information Director for the Diocese of Brooklyn.

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One thought on “The Saints on the Streets of Brooklyn

  1. I remember our good friend, Frank DeRosa, telling us this story. It is telling to know there are good people on this earth who are willing to care for another,
    especially in times of stress and trouble. It is in these small kindnesses that our faith in each other is renewed and the words of our Lord remembered…….
    Do unto others……..