Sometimes, reading my previous posts back, I realize I often get carried away by anger, disgust or indignation and I end up by behaving like the journalists of our news on tv: I just underline problems, bad behaviors and negative aspects, giving the impression of a totally negative humanity.
Well, today I’d like to write about three episodes I lived or witnessed during last month and that go exactly in the opposite direction.
The first one is related to the soup kitchen I already talk to you about. I had been asked by one of the guys managing it to get to know the president of the association running the whole project: the meeting point was in front of the soup kitchen building and my friend, who was supposed to introduce the president to me, was a little late. Suddenly I saw a young rocker coming towards me. He was the typical kind of boy one is tendentially a little scared about: you know, leather jacket with pentacle on the back, black “Iron Maiden” t-shirt, leather half-gloves with studs, torn jeans and heavy military boots, the whole look being completed by a long uncultivated beard and hair arriving much below the shoulders. At first I thought he was one of the people the soup kitchen is taking care of but I must admit that when the guy started staring at me in a quite fixed way I got a little afraid about his plans. Then, very simply, he stood in front of me (honestly my eyes were wide open in that moment) and gently asked if was waiting for him: he was, in fact, the guy I was waiting for. We had a quite long chat and I got to know a little more about him: he is ending his studies at Milan University Medical School and he has already asked to join a “Doctors without borders” team as soon as he will finish his specialization in pediatrics; he has already been three times in humanitarian missions in Haiti and, but for organizing the soup kitchen, he also serves as volunteer on ambulances three nights per week (“Sorry If I look a little dummy today, but I had a double turn tonight and I managed to sleep just for three hours…”, he told me with a very embarrassed look, while I would have wanted to embrace him). The mystery of his look? He is paying his studies playing guitar in an emerging heavy metal band and, therefore, his way of dressing is just his “working uniform”.
The second episode is just something I saw coming back home from work by subway some days ago. Some five-six stops far from mine a young Indian father with his possibly 7 years old daughter got into my wagon and sat on the only empty seat in front of me, putting the little girl on his knees. Up to here nothing strange. What attracted my attention was what the man seating beside me did as soon as the two Indians sat: this middle aged man, with a serious, almost grim, aspect probably due to the fact he was wearing a long black raincoat and a hat lowered on his eyes, extracted a block and a pencil from the leather briefcase at its feet and started sketching the image of the girl. I feel a little ashamed in admitting that, observing the whole scene, the first idea which came to my mind was very negative: was he a maniac? Some sort of disgusting pedophile? A child molester? The impression got stronger and stronger when I noticed he was drawing faster and faster, like under a sort of raptus and he was keeping the block so that the people around couldn’t see what he was outlining. To my surprise, just one stop before mine, the man tore the sheet he was drawing on from the block, gave the sketch to the girl without saying a word but with a large smile and got off the subway: the girl was so happy of this little gift that, laughing, she started showing it around: it was just a very well done portrait of her embraced by the arm of his father.
Finally, also the third episode took place on the subway. Yesterday, while I was going to work, we all noticed the young Arab getting into the wagon: typical Arab tunic, long beard but without moustaches, mark of Allah on his forehead, shiny (some would certainly have used adjectives as “excited” or “wild”) eyes and, above all, a big backpack in his hands. In short, he was the terrorist’s prototype to which hundreds of images have accustomed us. Milan is inhabited by thousands of Arabs but, possibly, this one must have been particularly responding to the common image of a fundamentalist if, when he sat down, something like 30 pairs of eyes were staring at him and, mainly, to his backpack, now between his legs. You can imagine the shock when, a couple of stops later, he stood up leaving his backpack on the seat: though nobody moved (nobody wants to be the first one to look fearful) probably thirty people (me included) were praying in that precise moment not to be victims of a bombing attack. Actually the Arab guy made only three footsteps to lightly,, almost fearfully, touch the shoulder of a pregnant lady who had just entered the wagon, to offer her his seat. The two started chatting (as much as the quite uncertain and basic Italian of the guy allowed) and very soon the ones around discovered that the guy was an Egyptian religious student just arrived to pay a visit to his uncle, the Imam of one of the Mosques of Milan (a very moderate Imam, as far as I know), he loved Italy but he had caught a bad cold (so, that’s way his eyes were so shiny) and he was also an expert in pregnancies already having three sons.
Well, what do I want to demonstrate with these three minimal, everyday examples?
Perhaps I could say they teach us never to judge at first sight, never to try to evaluate people we don’t know basing our judgment on stereotypes we constantly absorb from mass media always ready to instill terror for the others (we all know that bad news sell more than good ones), making us always suspicious that anything terrible can be done by everybody. But I know many could answer me we live in a hard world and to pay attention to the ones around us is much surer than to trust in them. I don’t know: I actually prefer to give trust to a human being up to contrary test, just as it makes me live better, in a less paranoiac way, but I couldn’t say in theory they are totally wrong.
Or, perhaps, as a Christian minister, I could say that a human being created by a loving God as reflection of Himself can be sometimes weak, sometimes distracted, often misguided but can’t be fundamentally evil, can’t be a beast destroyed by the “original sin”, by the mark of Satan or by anything else so many depressed and depressive preacher have always tried to say to demonstrate our fundamental inner negativity. But I know a multitude could answer that for any positive action I could mention, they could mention ten times more bad actions of human beings. I actually believe things work the opposite way but I can’t deny from time to time we can be capable of really horrible things.
So, I am not going to say anything, I declare I don’t want to demonstrate anything with these small episodes.
I only know they cheered me up, they gave me hope and, therefore, I just want to share this hope with you: isn’t hope something we all need?