What Tells Us We Are Loved?
"The kingdom of God can be that parking lot in Rochester, Minnesota, or the gaze of a ten-year-old kid."
About one year ago, during the pandemic lockdown, when our children stopped going to school in person, Fr. José and I proposed to the kids of our Fraternity group to meet via Zoom regularly to tackle questions about our desire for happiness in every circumstance. This took the form of the discovery of the lives of Hermann the Cripple and Pier Giorgio Frassati. Particularly when looking at Frassati, the suggestion was “to become like him doing the things he did.”
One of the most fascinating and important aspects of Pier Giorgio was charity. So, during Advent, Fr. José invited the kids to think about people in need around them in their community. We also got in touch with some kids their age in Kenya and we proposed to sell some handmade Christmas crafts and send the profit to our new friends through AVSI.
I was moved by the kids’ seriousness in adhering to these proposals. They got very creative in making different things (some made paper ornaments, others Christmas tree decorations, others home made pasta and limoncello), in advertising them with videos, posters, and emails, and in selling them. They were able to draw into this adventure their parents, their neighbours, their parents’ colleagues, and their teachers. We saw a network of relationships flourishing and unfolding around the desire to give.
But very interesting and beautiful is also what happened afterward. Every day I drive my ten-year-old son Giacomo--who is part of this group of kids--to and from school. One day I had just picked him up when he told me, ”Mom, look at that car.” I tried to look, but I was driving and I could only see an old car with a lot of cardboard around it, parked in a lot along the street. Giacomo says, “There is a car, and on the cardboard it says, ‘I am a veteran, can you help with food and gas?’ Can we help, mom? I saw this car many other times. Can we help him?”
This thing was striking to me: he had seen the car before, but he’d never told me about it and had never asked to help, but all this work we had done during Advent had educated him somehow to pay attention to the need of others, to understand that the world is bigger than our house. At that point I told Giacomo, “Of course we can help!”
We got home and filled a bag with food and water, and then we drove back to the car. When the man, who is homeless and living in his car, saw us getting out of our car with the bag for him, he was very surprised. Giacomo gave him the bag and told him, “My name is Giacomo. What’s your name?” “Kevin,” he answered. “Kevin, this is for you. If you tell me what you like, next week I will bring you what you like.” At this point Kevin had tears in his eyes and said, “I like everything. God bless you.”
For me, that “God bless you” was like putting in the center of everything that was going on the origin and the goal of everything we were living with Giacomo and the other kids. Since that day, Giacomo decided that every Tuesday we would bring Kevin a bag of food that he prepares over the weekend. Kevin knows that every Tuesday after school we stop there for him, so he waits for us at the same parking lot along the street.
One day I had some kids from the fraternity here at my house. I was about to drive them back to St. Cloud when I proposed to them to visit Kevin before going home. They were happy about it, so we prepared the bag together. One of the kids saw on my kitchen table a bouquet of flowers that my husband had bought for me the day before and she asked, ”Can we bring Kevin a flower?” I answered, “I think it is a great idea. Choose the one that you like the most.” She picked a beautiful yellow daisy and put it in the bag with the food.
We drove all together to Kevin, who was super surprised to see all those kids jumping out of the car. They introduced themselves, pet his dog, gave him the bag, and then we left. While we were leaving the parking lot, one of the kids said, ”Hey guys, look into Kevin's car.” We saw that this man, instead of taking food out of the bag like he usually did, was holding the daisy and was staring at it. I was extremely moved because I thought that this man, who is in need of everything, was in need of beauty. So I turned to the kids, “Isn’t this amazing? Why do you think he’s doing that?“ And they all answered, “Because that daisy tells him more than anything else that he is loved.”
Something that we might think of as a do-gooder gesture to make ourselves and others feel better instead educates us to understand that we have been made to love and to be loved. This wasn’t a project or a charity case, but a precious occasion to verify that we move because an Other makes our eyes and our heart open in front of others, and He moves us to answer.
This story also educated us to look at the world as our playing field. We really are called to build the kingdom of God, but the kingdom of God can be that parking lot in Rochester, Minnesota, or the gaze of a ten-year-old kid on a man who doesn’t know him and doesn’t expect anything of him.
Raffa, Rochester, Minnesota