Purpose – this is what I was reflecting on the last time I sat down to writing. It is an open question, a bleeding wound, which keeps my eyes open and my heart asking, questioning reality. Particularly, I feel the urgency of purpose when my time is free. Don’t get me wrong: I looooove to have free time, to rest and nourish myself. Time I can use for what I value among the many things life has gifted me with, like sitting on a massage chair for a mani-pedi… we don’t have anything like that in Italy, so I really have to do it (as often as I can!). Time I can devote to the people I care about, to serve and to love.
But now try and imagine life as if it consisted of free time only. Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month. After a while, free time does not really mean anything if there is no busy time; no responsibility, no one to answer to.
It happened to me that free time meant nothing, as life was free time only. So when it happens now – when I have a large stretch of time with no tasks, no responsibilities – I start feeling panicked. My husband knows the signs too well, and the consequences as well. That is why he suggested that I do something good; good like helping other people in my free time – exactly what the priest in Rome asked Shan to do. Other friends suggested it as well; using those same words, “doing something good”. Practically, my husband suggested taking a more active part in the Be the First Program, which is a program we volunteer at once per month with our community. On Saturdays we get the kids in Middle School from a disadvantaged neighborhood to get out and see the word, so that they might be encouraged to keep studying, and be the first in their family to finish High School, and possibly go to college. We do it for the kids, sure, but we do it for ourselves as well, as an education to learn to gratuitously love, as gratuitously we are loved: the idea is that in loving, we fulfill ourselves. And it is actually so. I know each one of us have experience it. And these kids are fantastic.
But when I get there on Saturday morning, and look at the two big containers on the parking lot of the Parish Church which serve as a safe place for these kids – painted in bright colors to be welcoming and dignified – I often wonder how people can find in themselves the strength and courage to devote their life to such tasks and callings. Which is the same question I asked Shan when I first met her. And they don’t do it just a Saturday once a month, like we do, but every single day of every single week. The program runs every afternoon and all summer, offering these kids the most diverse services and activities. It is as if, gratuitousness becomes the law of life. Love becomes the law of life. Charity becomes the law of life. So I was surprised – but not really, actually – when by chance, in researching, I found out that such a program is sponsored by Catholic Charities!
They do not find the strength in themselves after all: they, as well, try to correspond to God’s love.