Loving your neighbour does not always require grand gestures. Sometimes it is enough simply to look to the other person attentively to discover that responding to their needs with joy costs nothing. From that sowing of love, soon we all reap beautiful fruit.
At the bus stop
I meet Karim at the bus stop. I hardly know him, I don’t even know what country he’s from, although I think he is North African, and while waiting we chat. I’m headed to the city, he to the seaside, and certainly not for swimming (this is evident from the meagre assortment of beach items to sell that he carries with him).
I notice, however, that he doesn’t have a hat to protect himself from the sun, an indispensable accessory in this scorching summer for those who, like him, will spend a few hours on the sunny beach. ‘I forgot it at home,’ he replies.
I spontaneously offer him mine. I bought it recently, but it doesn’t matter: ‘Take it, I have two others. Where I’m going I can find shade, but you…’
Bewildered, Karim looks at me almost incredulously. Several times he insists not to take it, then finally relents seeing that I do so wholeheartedly. Meanwhile, my bus arrives. We say goodbye.
‘Have a good day at work, Karim!’
‘Thanks again for the hat!’
Only then does it occur to me that I gave that gift to Jesus in him. The fact is, that episode of the hat enlightens my whole morning.
From the Gospel I had learnt that behind the poor and the marginalised it is Christ who asks to be loved. I remember a simple episode.
In the bar near my home, I noticed a poor man, nicknamed Pen, who was soaking wet because it was raining that day. Knowing that he had had tuberculosis, and overcoming some resistance to be seen in his company, I invited him home to find him something dry.
My parents were surprised. ‘Santa, we could use some clothes…’
At first my son did not seem very enthusiastic, but then he found a pair of trousers, while I got a jacket.
But the rain showed no sign of stopping. ‘What if we gave him an umbrella too?’ An umbrella was also found.
Happy the poor man, but I was happier too, because we had collaborated to help him.
But it didn’t end there. Days later, Pen came back to return the umbrella. Actually it wasn’t the one we had given him – it was better. Ours had been stolen and someone had given him another one. He wanted to reciprocate that way.
Edited by Maria Grazia Berretta.
From “Il Vangelo del Giorno,” Città Nuova, year IX, no. 1, March–April 2023.