I need God. You need God. The whole world needs God. This thought raised a question in my mind: What could I do to encounter God in my life? What could I do to have a personal relationship with Him?
Reading the Gospel and listening to others who were asking the same questions, I realized that the important thing is to pray and love your neighbour. These two things have revolutionised my life. Without prayer and love for my neighbour, the Always A Person project would never have begun. What is this project? Around 18 years ago a friend asked me for a favour: “I have been given the names and addresses of 6 prison inmates; we could write to three of them – three for you and three for me. It might cheer them up.” I immediately agreed to what he was asking because I remembered Jesus words: “I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt. 25:36).
I wrote the letters and a few days later one of them, Giorgio, replied: ‘I’m really happy to be friends with you. God has sent you. . .’ Then he asked me for a favour: ‘Could you go to my mother’s house? She’s ill. Bring her a kiss from me.”
So I went. I was told that she lived on the fourth floor. In the lift I was thinking: ‘What will I say to her? How will she welcome me?’ But I was already involved in this little adventure and I wanted to see it through whatever the cost.
‘Madam,’ I said to her, ‘I’m a friend of your son. We write to each other. He asked me to visit you and bring you a kiss from him.’ She was moved and began to weep. ‘My son is good, my son is good; a bit lively,’ she said. ‘He’s made many mistakes. His girlfriends led him to make mistakes, but he’s not bad! I have a tumour and only have a short time to live. I see that you genuinely care for my son; stay near to him. Help him, I beg you!’
A week before she died, I visited her in hospital. There were many people around her bed. ‘Be near to him Giorgio, Giorgio, Giorgio!’ she said to me. These were her last words.
When I went to visit Giorgio, some of his friends wanted to talk to me. Thus I came to know many others in different sections of the jail. Many told me about their families living around the areas of Rome and the surrounding regions. I felt urged to visit them. I brought food and such to the poorest among them: nappies and baby food where there were children. This calmed the inmates, knowing that someone was looking after their families; and the families were also comforted, and some of them began visiting their inmate husband or son.
Then to my great joy, I received requests from some ex-inmates to collaborate with me. Now there are thirty of us (volunteers and ex-inmates) who bring groceries and other supplies to more than 70 families living in at-risk areas of Rome and in the surrounding districts.
We don’t receive support from anyone; everything we distribute comes from a few parishes around Rome, as a witness to the life we share. The funds we gather are spent on groceries and supplies. We always find that God is generous and sends us what we are in need of.
you for listening to my story! I’m now convinced that if we pray and serve our neighbour, we will make many people happy; we’ll be happy and we’ll change the world around us.
(Alfonso Di Nicola)