God is not what you expect

Doing charitable work among nuns, wheelchairs and a “strange” fullness. A story from Tor Bella Monica.

Desandre 1
The young people of the parish of the Magliana at charitable work with the sisters of Mother Teresa.

For about a year now, we have been proposing to a few of our young people of high school age a gesture of charitable work. It happens once a month, on Sunday afternoon. We leave from the Magliana and head towards Tor Bella Monica where, in the midst of the apartment buildings in the Via dell’Archeologia, lies the house of the Missionaries of Charity. In this house, the sisters have taken in children from Afghanistan, who fled from Kabul, the city from which many poor people were seeking to escape when the American army pulled out from the region. All of these children are gravely disabled. In the hours that we spend with them, we play, we sing songs and we help them to eat.

I want to recount three things that have happened to the young people during this gesture which is so small and yet so powerful.

One Sunday of charitable work coincided with a huge soccer match between the rivals Roma and Lazio, and Luca, a die-hard fan of Lazio, decided to come anyway because the time before, he had returned home with a “strange” fullness, less explosive but more profound even than that which he feels when his beloved Lazio secures a victory.

While entering the house of the Missionaries of Charity, it was evident that he was making a big sacrifice by not being at the stadium but his convicted decision to participate in charitable work was also clear. What an incredible thing, then, when he immediately encountered Omar, one of the Afghan kids who immediately began to play with him, dressed in a Lazio jersey that someone had donated to the Sisters! For Luca, it was like a sign, a caress from the Lord who was telling him: “Thank you that you came to see me!”. Later that evening, Lazio won the match.

The second fact regards Tahira, an Afghan girl with a beautiful gaze. She likes to be walking continuously. She travels kilometers within the house of the Sisters. Giada and Aurora put themselves next to her and, taking her by the arm, they accompany her in her ambulatory vortex. During these walks, however, Tahira always keeps her head down, facing the ground. Every so often, Giada and Aurora stop and invite her to raise her gaze to observe the beauty of a bird, of the sky as the sun is setting, of a flower or of one of the other kids. She lifts her head up and looks. Returning home, Giada told us about her discovery: “I too want to be like Tahira! Often I find myself with my gaze fixed on the ground, totally in my own head, stuck in my problems. Being with Tahira helps me to discover that I too need someone who makes me lift my gaze on what is out there, on the beauty that surrounds me. Charitable work has been for me what we ourselves have been for Tahira.”

For the first time in my life, I concentrated more on another person than on myself

Finally, here is what Daniel wanted to write about his first experience in charity. “Last Friday I was at the GS meeting. A friend asked me, ‘Are you coming to charitable work on Sunday?’. I answered yes even though I didn’t even know what it was. I decided to trust this friend and go.

That Sunday, while I was in the car, I thought about what I was going to, imagining what charitable work was going to be and especially who the people I was going to help were. Once we got inside the house, I felt frozen: there were Afghan kids and every one of them was disabled. I was very confused; I did not expect this. To calm down, I sat down next to one of them, looking him in the eyes. He responded with a smile that melted the initial cold feeling in me.

Little by little, I began to feel more at ease. Once we got the moment of the snack, everyone was eating except one, who was not able to by himself. One of the Sisters told me: ‘Can you help him?’. I said yes to her. I began to spoon feed him and after a bit, I realized that it wasn’t as simple as I had thought but I don’t want to give up. For the first time in my life, I concentrated more on another person than on myself. While he was finishing his snack, Fr. Philip called me: ‘Hey! We gotta go.’ I had totally lost track of time! On the return trip, I thought about how fortunate I was and also about the surprise that I had had as soon as I entered that house. I thought to myself that God is not what you expect, even if, in the end, He is what you most expect.”

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