Focolare Movement
Scenes of life in an apartment block

Scenes of life in an apartment block

‘We have been living in an apartment block for fifteen years. There are four staircases and a hundred and twenty dwellings. When we got married, we wanted to build up good neighbourly relationships with everyone and possibly to share the joy of the kind of life we lead based on the Gospel. But working all day long we never saw anyone. However, after the birth of our children we met other parents and their children in the park and the yard for our building. We had the idea of inviting some of them for an evening meal, and after that there were times to get together for parties and outings. The atmosphere finally began to change and become a lot warmer.

‘At times relationships just take off, overcoming any natural reservations, and we try not only to give but we also to find the courage to ask. One day Marco was rewiring our flat, but he realized that he wasn’t able to do everything. With a bit of humility he went to ask for help from our neighbour opposite, and he helped willingly and with unexpected kindness.

‘One very hot and sticky Saturday in August we got home at about midnight. The children were fast asleep in our arms. In front of the red lights of the lift there were two couples already waiting. They didn’t seem to have the least intention of letting us go first, despite our “burdens”. We had had a bit of an argument with them about how, in their opinion, our children shouldn’t play in the yard. They got into the lift. While we were waiting for our turn, the lift broke down and the alarm went off. The stairs were practically deserted, because in the heat everyone had left town. What could we do? Call the fire brigade or service manager, and then put our children to bed and keep ourselves to ourselves? Basically they hadn’t treated us very well. But the air in the lift was getting hotter and hotter… Marco ran to the place where the motor was and with tremendous effort managed to force the lift up to the next floor, freeing those who had been stuck in it.

One evening we went out to eat with our neighbours. At one point, their parents, who also live in the same building, called them to tell them that water was coming out of their flat. We all rushed back. The door of the washing machine had opened and water was gushing out in a continuous stream. The result was that their whole place was under two centimetres of water, to say nothing of the water that had already escaped through front door. Things looked tragic when we thought of the possible damage to the flat bellow; they had only just put down some parquet flooring. We offered to let our friends’ children sleep at our place. The men began to brush the water off the balcony and the women soaked it up with buckets and rags. We worst was avoided – fortunately.

‘Another evening, when we were in the living room, we heard a terrible cry from the floor below. To begin with we thought we ought to keep our noses out. But then Marco went down. The door into the flat was wide open. Marco entered cautiously. The eighteen year-old son was pinned to the ground by two of our neighbours. His father was staggering about and seemed utterly lost. His mother was desperate and, as she gasped for air, she said that the boy had wanted to throw himself off the balcony. Another neighbour was holding a bandage to his face where the boy had punched him. The boy carried on shaking and shouting with wild eyes and foaming at the mouth. We did what we could, especially comforting the parents and waiting together for the ambulance that was coming to take the boy to the hospital. He had overdosed on cannabis.‘This too is the kind of thing that can happen in a building like ours.’  (Anna Maria and Marco, Italy)

Taken from: Una buona notizia. Gente che crede gente che muoveCittà Nuova Editrice, 2012

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