Taking care of others builds community. Following is the experience of Teresa Osswald, who supports a small group of children in Porto, Portugal.
Pay attention to what is happening around us. Devote time and energy to those in need. Put yourselves in each other’s shoes and share their joys and labours. Often, loving those around us means stepping into the shoes of everyday life and being close to them.
This is the experience of Teresa Osswald, who works with a small group of children in the city of Porto, Portugal.
Like every year, when the school closes for summer vacation, the children enjoy some rest in the open air: some by the sea, some in the mountains, some in the city.
There are some, however, who do not have the chance because their families are experiencing financial difficulties or do not have family or friends who can take care of them while their parents are at work.
So they are socially isolated, partly because they come from distant countries, with different cultures, traditions and religions.
This is the story of three Portuguese children whose parents are originally from the islands of São Tomé and Principe off the west coast of Africa. They generally spend their vacations at home, alone and not doing much.
This year would have been the same if Teresa hadn’t taken in their discomfort. She did the same for other children and other families in the same conditions.
“I had a great desire to have an answer for all these situations,” she says. “At least we managed for one family: at the end of July I had spoken to a friend about these three children who would spend the month of August alone at home. The next day she gave me some information about the summer camps in our town.”
But places were few, their request arrived late, and it was not clear if the children could participate. Teresa entrusted everything to God. “Thy will be done.”
They find places, and the cost of the camp is covered by the Focolare community there in that city. Those who donate then experience a “return” elsewhere.
Teresa considers it Gospel fulfilled: “Give and it will be given to you” (Lk 6:38).
Then the children need to be brought to camp in the morning and home in the evening. It is not easy to find time between daily commitments, but Teresa offers herself all the same.
“I see three happy children running towards my car. All that’s left to do is to tighten the laces on the little girl’s shoes, and everything is fine.”
After a week, a phone call arrives. It is a friend who comes to help her and offers to take the children to her place.
“And so it was that, with a small contribution from many,” she explains, “these children had the opportunity to swim, dance, socialize, instead of being locked in the house. Above all, they had the opportunity to infect teachers and other children with their joy and great generosity.”
And it was also nice to see the joy of their mother, who was moved and grateful.
“There were words so strong that they shook me,” confides Teresa. “To be interested in everything that happens near us and taking care of others has helped us build a little piece of the united world in our community.
Claudia Di Lorenzi