This week's blog offers something a little different, because right now we need different things. This is a short story I wrote of real live events on an otherwise typical evening riding on the train home from my office. The events had a profound impact on me and provide a message about the impact of generosity.
On the train this evening, a man stepped onto the car and announced to the passengers that he was suffering from serious medical conditions and was facing amputation of one or both of his legs if he could not get needed medical care. Looking quite disheveled, he asked for any help people could provide.
As the man spoke, I thought back to when I was in Italy. I was sent there by my mentor to study the Comunità di Sant'Egidio, a Catholic community of lay people who combine their hearts, efforts, and ideas to solve societal problems through creating both community and global peace. Much of their work involves helping the poor, who Sant Egidio members actually treat with dignity and as equals, or as they say ‘friends.’ For example, at their soup kitchen in Rome, Sant Egidio volunteers offer full service to homeless people who come in to eat as if they are at a restaurant. And the volunteers engage the homeless people in conversations about their lives like they are friends or ‘amici.’
One of the practices I picked up from Sant Egidio community members is to not see the poor beggars as a burden but actually to joyfully share money with them as a way to be of service and fulfill the teachings of Jesus. Indeed, Sant Egidio members taught me to carry around Euro coins specifically to give to beggars.
I remembered this tonight on the train in my home city. I had seen men like this man speaking of his medical problems get on the train and ask for money before. And what I always notice is people look away and do nothing. Me included, usually because I feel afraid. And I’ll admit, when this man first began his speech to the passengers I felt afraid. I wondered: ‘would he do us harm?’
Rather than my usual freeze up and do nothing, I remembered my friends in Italy and let go of the fear. I looked in my purse and pulled out the one bill I had, $5, for the man to come and take. I raised it up in the air so others could see what I was doing and although it is not our norm, giving this man the money he told us he desperately needed was indeed an option.
And do you know what happened? The two women sitting behind me went in their purses to give him money. I heard another woman offer him her left over taco for his dinner, which he gratefully accepted. I felt a deep joy and satisfaction within that I have found only comes from giving to others, not for recognition or to get anything in return - just for the simple pleasure of helping.
The lessons: Being generous is the very best of us, and when one of us does it, it becomes contagious.
My Italian friends showed me this lesson through their actions, and tonight I got to pass that on. Thank you to Reynaldo, Mario, and Carlo for opening my mind and heart to God’s call for us to embrace our less fortunate brothers and sisters in love and not to shun them in fear.
We are all one.
If this story touched you, and in light of the state of the world today with so many of our brothers and sisters in need of support, you might take some time to free write in your journal or talk with a trusted friend about what this means to you and what you might take away as new action.
About the Author
Gina Marotta is a career coach and speaker teaching and inspiring people to unleash their genius. She is a former defense attorney for some of Chicago’s highest profile criminal cases, served as Managing Director for a national nonprofit catalyzing career advancement for women and girls, and has been featured in media outlets like: Thrive Global, The Huffington Post, and WGN Radio. She has also been named 50 Under 50 and among 100 Women Making a Difference.