New Humanity Movement

Social Ethics

 

82-Angeli-a-Roma

It is often in towns and cities that you can find lively networks of associations and services that are run by people who work away quietly, helping those who live on the margins of society to reassert their citizenship. One example can be found in Rome, where a “working group” is made up of prisoners who are inspired by the ideal of fraternity.  This week we continue to tell their stories.

From Rome

 

 

 

 

 

Anna

Anna is a young woman who lives in the San Basilio district of Rome with her six year-old son. She has serious financial problems so Carlo tried to find a part-time cleaning job for her, but he didn't come up with anything definite. Anna's husband, Giovanni was released from prison because of ill-health, and then he had to have an operation for a tumour. 

We went to see Anna before her husband returned home. She desperately needed even the basic necessities, especially for her son. Sometimes she had absolutely nothing at all to give him and was driven to stealing packs of meat from the supermarket. When I asked her what she needed, she said to bring whatever my own heart, as a mother, suggested.

Various family problems meant that we too were going through financial difficulties, so we didn't really see how we could help with this situation. However Marina, another member of our group, came to the rescue. She gave us all the money that she had been collecting, which was enough for us to meet the expenses of Anna and her son several times over. 

At first the boy was a bit grumpy, but on one occasion when we brought some food and he saw the table covered in nice things, he said, «Look Mum, there are even some eggs!», and his eyes lit up when he spotted some of his favourite “ringo” biscuits. He went and found the little box where he kept his savings and pulled out twelve 1000 Lire notes: everything he had. He handed six to me, and six to my husband. It was his gift to us, which he absolutely insisted that we kept. We were deeply moved by this because it was a sign of the reciprocity that was emerging in our relationship. 

During one of our most recent visits we had the opportunity to meet Giovanni. He too is very young and is still recovering from his operation. They are not out of the woods yet, but together we are trying to find the best way to continue supporting this family.

 

Riccardo

Riccardo is a former convict who is now fully at liberty. He's in his fifties, out of work, and has drug dependency problems. He is separated from his wife, and has a fifteen year-old daughter who lives with her mother. He lives alone in a flat that was left to him and his brothers.  

He is a very vulnerable intellectual who took part in the Student Protests of 1968. In moments of euphoria he really wants to get his life back together and support himself, but these moments alternate with times when he is deeply depressed because he can't get a job that would let him live with dignity and so regain his daughter's esteem and affection, along with that of his family and all his friends.

It is during these frequent episodes that we try to help him with a special kind of friendship.

He has many financial problems, and we help him by providing food and clothing, often reaching into our own wallets in an emergency. Carlo in particular keeps an eye on Riccardo's situation, seeing to all his daily needs as they arise. In one message to Carlo, Riccardo said, «Sorry to bother you, but when we met yesterday I was too ashamed to admit that I literally didn't have a penny to my name. There aren't many people who are willing to help me, but it is not without shame that I dare to ask you if you can give me a hand. When you’re desperate, you can’t afford to hold back. Please forgive me and try to understand the position I’m in. With my best wishes, Riccardo».

In another message he said, «There are no words to describe the gratitude that I feel towards you for what you are doing for me. Have a good weekend. Riccardo».

During his long stay in prison, Riccardo wrote poetry which he later collected into a book which won a literary prize. He frequently takes part in broadcasts and conferences in which he shares his own experiences and opinions about the conditions that prisoners have to endure. He was at the Campidoglio in Rome where, in the presence of Councillors of the City of Rome and some contemporary poets, he spoke on behalf of prisoners and proposed ways of making living conditions more humane. He was also invited to write and publish more poetry.

In Riccardo's story, just as with all the others, we are asked to be faithful to the ideal of fraternity. Often this means taking risks for others and putting ourselves to one side so as to make room for them, especially where they are fragile and weak. But the happiness we see in their eyes is priceless, even if it only lasts a minute, and we always have to be ready to start again when we get it wrong. But you can only fall once you have started to walk...

© Photo Copyright Inside Carceri Creative Commons License
 

 

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