Three years ago I started a journey as a volunteer in a Community of Rome which takes care of addicts. The Centre, that started in 1978 as a support group for drug addicts, has today widened its scope of operation and is no longer limited only to drug addiction.
The journey of the clientele within the community includes not only those who have addiction problems but also their families or relatives who are involved in the situation which at times have reached the limits of human endurance. I do my volunteer work precisely for these least of our brothers, taking care of their basic needs, and also of their support or self-help groups.
In both these instances: welcome and self-help, I had the chance to concretely experience the importance and the validity of dialogue that is made up of communication and listening, that I bring ahead in the Focolare Movement among persons who have faith and others of different convictions just like me.
The welcome or reception is the most difficult moment for those who arrive feeling lost, confused and who, with great effort, try their best to open up and share their situation to a person that they have never met before. This is the most complicated step of the entire journey; if the person who tries with great effort to overcome the fear and the shame, does not feel listened to and welcome, then the work that follows could become useless.
Even in the diversity of situations, the dialogue allows – thanks to the reciprocity that arises from it – a union and an exchange from within that is truly profound. The positive points of one and the sufferings of the other confront each other in an enriching sharing. The burden in a person that in the beginning seemed to be unbearable, becomes lighter and the sufferings less heavy. There will be many difficult moments along the road, but knowing that one is not alone helps; when one falls there is a shoulder to lean on.
One morning, a lady arrived asking to talk with one of the staff. I was alone, so I offered to listen to her. Even before we sat down, she already set the conditions for our conversation: this meeting must remain secret (because if her son would come to know about it he would probably kill her); she would not tell me her name and even the name of her son; I cannot tell the police anything nor file a case.
My first reaction was surprise and then anger, many of her conditions irritated me. But when I was able to detach myslef from my role, I saw two people who were were definitely not trying to dialogue: one was weak and burdened with suffering and fear; the other was strong, but locked into his duty as saviour.
I perceived the impossibility of working and the incapacity of concretizing the theories that I had learned in the three years of my service in this community. The technical instruments are useless in this situation, the methods used by me in the past are fruitless, I had to change my strategy.
The moment had come to apply the dialogue that I usually carry out with my friends of the focolare! Only I can change the situation. The tone of my voice, my attitude changed; I invited the lady to sit down and I put all my technical knowledge at her disposition, but above all I lent my humanity, forgetting the many usual bureaucratic procedures.
There was a simultaneous explosion of tears and of joy; she sat down and begging forgiveness for her tears, she started to share with me her story. The need to share the drama that she was going through, finally found a space where it could be shared freely without shame or fear of being judged.
My opening finally became a listening that was able to welcome her suffering, process it, make it mine and give back to her my contribution in a mutual enrichment. (Piero Nuzzo)