Angiolino is by no means “self-centred”. This is the best description you could probably give of him. For 75 years he’s lived as someone who is “other-centred”. He’s lived in several places in Italy, then in Belgium and Argentina. For the past few years he’s been living in Rome, Italy.
“When I first came to Rome, I felt a bit awkward. I knew so few people, but at the same time felt the need to do something for the people here who often seemed tired and stressed, unhappy and buried in their personal problems. Then, I simply began to acquaint myself with whomever came into view, beginning with the shop workers, the florist, the coffee shop owner, the newspaper seller.
But especially the many poor people I met who were begging for money. Often when I go to church, I find them coming up to me in groups of four or five. One asks for some money, another for a pair of trousers or pieces of clothing. Even when I don’t have anything to give them, I stop to chat a bit and they feel accepted.
Once in a while I stop by a Romanian who is unable to move one leg because of an accident. He’s married with a daughter who considers me a father.
Then someone tells me he hasn’t had breakfast. So I invite him to a coffee shop and do a bit of shopping for him. Hasamed from Bangladesh supports his family, cleaning windshields. When he insists on buying me a cappuccino I let him pay, out of respect for his personal dignity. If someone has a need that goes beyond my possibilities, I pray to the Eternal Father, and often the answer comes.
Once, not knowing how to assist a Romanian lady who was in need, I gave her the gold cross and chain I have always worn around my neck. At times, not concerned about who sees me (it’s been a while since I’ve looked for human respect), I sit with them and listen to what they have to tell me. . . I don’t solve their problems, but at least they feel there is someone who wishes them well. My way of acting is not always looked upon in a positive way. Once someone even threatened me: ‘You give too much trust to those over there, then they take advantage and come to rob you. If you continue like this, I’ll report you to the police!’ But as for me, I just continued, hoping that my example might draw others. Like that time when I was at the Vatican Museums and it began to rain. I saw a bearded old man approaching, soaked to the skin, unsteady on his feet and wearing a tattered scarf around his neck. He smelled of wine and I understood immediately! In fact, I had just received some extra money from my pension.
‘Come,’ I told him, ‘let me buy you a pair of shoes.’ As I stepped into the shop, a gentleman turned to me and said: ‘I’ll also contribute ten euros.’
I’m a bit talented at doing clown performances with a foldable metre for measuring. The monies I receive from these small performances I donate to from seminarians from outside the country, since the bishop who was assisting them has died. Then there are others in Congo who would not be able to carry on with the studies if it were not for my support. I was also able to help a married couple who were unable to afford a cesarian section: now they have a healthy baby girl. I share these little episodes with people whenever the occasion allows, and my barber – for example – has refused to let me pay for the last two haircuts, telling me to “send the money you were going to give me, to Congo.”
Living like this is an investment: for example, at times I leave the house focused in on myself, a bit burdened by some personal problem, but when I spot one of my poor friends I take courage. It’s as if they say to me, come on, Angiolino, get out of yourself, give us a smile. . . And by forgetting myself, I return to being free and happy.
Source: Città Nuova online