Visiting the GS kids door-to-door during lockdown, in Budapest, Hungary.

I spent a year in mission in our house in Budapest, sharing with Carlo, Alessandro, and Michele the life and activities of the parishes entrusted to us: Christ the King, St. Stephen, and St. Anne.
Just over a year ago, a group of high school students began to gather around Fr. Michele, enthralled by the enthusiasm of one of them who had met GS participating in the vacation of the German community. Coming back from Germany, he wanted to share the same experience with his friends in Budapest. For me, one of the most beautiful gifts of this year was following, together with Michele, the first steps of this new adventure. Last fall, we began to read together Lord of the Rings to reawaken in ourselves the desire to live a full life that is not blocked by fear and fatigue and for a companionship that always accompanies us. We proposed to meet every Saturday to study, play games, or go on a hike, to discover together that this companionship exists.
For a few months in the spring, the pandemic prevented us from meeting all together so Michele and I decided to maintain the relationship with the kids by going to visit them personally. Every week, we went to visit one or two of them at home, calling on the intercom and inviting them to come down for a walk along the Danube. Michele was attentive to each of them, inviting them to tell us something positive. Starting from this, he helped them to judge the week that they had lived.
With much irony because of my limited knowledge of Hungarian, which I had been studying only for a few months, I forced myself to follow the flow of the conversation and to try to say a few phrases. I often felt inadequate and I was tempted to think that, non being able to express myself with words, I wouldn’t be able to communicate anything meaningful to them. Then I would think back to charitable work, above all the two years spent at the pediatric hospital Bambin Gesù in Rome, where I was educated to look at myself and others without calculations, to give my time letting go of the pretense of solving every problem, sharing life with the people I met.
In his splendid theatrical adaptation of the Book of Job, Fabrice Hadjadj has Elifaz, rushing to his friend’s deathbed, say: “I am here to help you”. But Job replies: “Can’t you just be here?”. When I see the faces of our kids so happy because of a gesture so simple, I find myself grateful to be almost forced to “just be here”. I didn’t go to Hungary to do something but to discover the beauty of making all of life a gift, to truly, freely say, “I am here for you”.

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