The greatest good is what we do for one another ~ Mother Teresa
The story below was shared on Facebook and is an especially inspiring piece about who we are when we live our most authentic life from our essential being. It invites us to reflect on the way forward at this critical juncture in time and shares a story that suggests how the purity of dedication to love even from strangers who have no reason to help can heal us. Perhaps in 2022 we might pay greater attention to what we need to let go of before we can access the love and compassion within us and feed that goodness into the world that deeply needs it right now.
I went to Rome for the holiday, traveling alone to see my boyfriend, but he didn’t show up at the airport – he sent his best friend Carlo, who wouldn’t tell me why Renzo did not pick me up. I’ve told this story before – how it was the 80’s and there was some deadly flu going around, and if you didn’t die from it, you almost died, and friends suggested I not travel, but I was in my mid-twenties, and life doesn’t stop for anything at that age.
I had no respect for the flu.
I was probably drinking too much and eating processed foods and I hadn’t discovered exercise yet, so I can’t imagine my immune system was on my side.
When I arrived at Leonardo Da Vinci airport I was freezing – I did not know Rome could be so cold in the winter, I was shivering and layering, even in the airport, thinking, don’t Italians believe in heat?
Carlos took me to my hotel, with a rickety elevator, and said Renzo would be there in a few hours, but he wouldn’t tell me why Renzo had not come.
I went up to my room, into the not knowing, into the city of seven hills, the city of Jesus Christ and the Capuchin Friars who made furniture out of the bones of a princess. I tried to crank up the heat, but I couldn’t get warm. Shivering, I called down to the front desk and asked for more blankets.
By the time I answered the door to take the blankets, I knew I had that flu, and I was alone in a hotel room without my boyfriend.
I could feel the heat pouring out of my body, and the man delivering the blankets muttered something about me being a drug addict under his breath, and I must have looked like one.
When Renzo arrived, I no longer cared that he was hours late, or why he hadn’t picked me up. By then my fever was 104, and I asked him to take me to a hospital.
But instead, he carried me to the car and took me to his mother, who didn’t like me. I was an ‘Americana Puttana’ to her, but he delivered the woman he loved to the other woman he loved, and she immediately took over, kissing my forehead to determine how bad the fever was.
I don’t remember much about the next two days, except there was water and rosaries and prayer and soaked underpants and t shirts and sheets being changed, and old women caring for me, lifting my head, saying drink. His mother called in her friends, and they cared for me in shifts, wiping me down with cold towels, talking to me in a language I barely understood.
And did I mention the rosaries, and the women hovering over me smelling like wine and garlic and love.
When I finally returned to the world from my small cot with clean sheets, I took a shower, washed and brushed my hair, put on a red dress and had dinner with his whole family around a small kitchen table with gold stars in the Formica.
I told funny stories in broken English and bad Italian and we all laughed, though I’m certain it was the love and the relief we were all alive together, not the story. We drank wine out of small glasses and had pasta with garlic and parsley and formaggio and vegetable soup and Campari.
The end of this story is there is no end to the story.
None of those beautiful, brave women caught the deadly flu that Christmas. On New Year’s Eve, Carlo and Renzo took me to a party in a beach city, and we were walking down the street just after midnight when Renzo pulled me into a doorway, yelling “Attento!” and pointing up.
That’s when chairs and sofas and clothing and shoes started flying out the open windows.
It’s a tradition in some Italian cities, on New Year’s you symbolically throw out the old to let in the new. I remember being thrilled by this display of releasing, though the next day the beach city looked like it had been bombed.
That New Year’s I was releasing the man I loved who had died two years before and bringing in a new life with a new love in a country that enchanted me.
That New Year, I learned that Renzo was late to the airport because his mother’s sister had died by suicide. This means his mother cared for me in her darkest hour. I thought she was saving me, but it’s more likely we were saving each other.
Sometimes, even before we even release the old, we are offered someone to heal, which is really part of our own healing, though we can’t see it at the time.
Tonight, I hope you open your window, or go through your drawers, or put a box together of things to release, to symbolically release the old and invite in the new.
No matter how deep our sorrow or how palpable our fears, we must remember that someone, somewhere needs us, though we may not have met them yet – we will rise to greet them when it’s time – to give them a hug, tell them a story, wash their dishes or help them to rearrange their bedroom.
And if they have a deadly flu by any name, we will care for them.
Because that’s just what we do.
Hello, 2022. We’ve got this because we have prayer and hope and rosaries and garlic and love. And each other.
Happy New Year!
by Laura Lentz
“In 2022 – Release stress, overwhelm, complexity, clutter, burnout, exhaustion and saying ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no’ ” ~ John Stamoulos