“Jesus has shown us that love means welcoming the other person as they are, in the same way as He has accepted each one of us. Welcome the other person, with their own style, their own ideas, even their own defects, their diversity. (…) Make space for them within us, removing every prejudice, preconceived judgement and instinctive rejection”. (Chiara Lubich)
The “Village of misery”
The residents of this slum area situated along swampy river banks, often have no alternative but to leave their children alone at home during the day while they are out struggling to earn a living. A while ago, following torrential rain, the swollen river entered many of the dwellings, and unfortunately a baby, only a few months old, was swept away. We live in a residential area not far from this area. Shocked to hear of this tragedy, we tried to find a way to respond and encouraged friends and relatives of the family to get involved. We found a suitable place, and hired rooms to start a crèche where parents could safely leave their children during the day. Nearby we also launched a nursery school for the older ones, so they didn’t remain out on the streets. This initiative is bearing fruit: new relationships are being forged between those who work there and the families; there is a sharing of goods, time and services. Gradually another dream is also taking shape: to offer better alternative accommodation to those families living in the “Village of misery”. Using a system focused based on self-help, this year we have built and inaugurated the first new houses.
(S.J.B. – Argentina)
In our office it was impossible not to speak about politics. Impossible not to experience the huge divisions between our different points of view. I got so tired of this daily tension which kept increasing every time someone would proclaim “truths” that others could not accept, I decided that rather than trying to change the office, I had better change myself. So I set myself the challenge to try to understand what was pushing one or other of my colleagues to defend a certain position. This attitude of mine provoked a certain curiosity, especially after they had attacked me personally as a “conservative Catholic bigot”! It’s true to say that prayer helped me, but also my parish community encouraged me to have more charity. One day my most virulent “enemy” said to me, “I don’t know where to attack you any more! I see that you’re happy. Your freedom confuses me!” Without too many formal explanations, a constructive friendship has been established which is now helping our other colleagues to engage in a more understanding attitude with one another, even while we retain our own convictions.
Thieves inside my home
I opened the door to them because they looked like nice young men. Instead, they demanded my money, and began opening drawers and cupboards while one of them held my arm tightly behind my back. I was too terrified even to cry out. When they left I collapsed on the floor in shock. They could have shown some pity for my age. Then I managed to go out onto my balcony and cry for help, though the thieves were long gone by then. My neighbours came but all they could do was to help me tidy up as I tried to see what had been taken. What could I do? That day I felt as if all the misery of loneliness and old age had fallen upon me. I couldn’t get to sleep that night. I kept reliving the events of the day. They had seemed such nice young men, they could have been my grandchildren. Why had they acted like this? I managed to find some peace within myself when I decided to pray for them and for their own mothers. And I thanked God that I was still alive.
Don’t deny life
I met a neighbour I hadn’t seen for many years, since we moved away from the area. I almost didn’t recognise her because she looked much older than her years. I could tell she really wanted to talk and open her heart to share what she had lived through since we had last met. “It all began one day,” she told me, “when I decided to have an abortion because I thought it would solve the problems my husband and I were having at the time. Far from it, in fact he blamed me for not giving him a son and then left me for another woman, leaving me to struggle alone to bring up our two teenage daughters. Time passed, and one of my daughters confessed to me that she was pregnant. Her boyfriend had given her an ultimatum: abort the child or he would leave her. I confided in her what I had never told anyone before, and pleaded with her not to deny life, as I had done. Seeing my tears, it was my daughter who comforted me. She later explained that seeing my grief made her decide to keep her baby. And so it was. The father did not leave her. They are together with their beautiful daughter who is also my own consolation”.
collated by Stefania Tanesini
(from Il Vangelo del Giorno, Città Nuova, anno VI, n.1, gennaio-febbraio 2020)