Walking around the streets of London and looking at the shop windows, it may seem that the most valuable things in our modern world are the most expensive.
In the time I’ve spent with friends from Sant’Egidio, I have learnt that actually the things that are most valuable to me are the ones you cannot possibly put a price on such as friendship. Friendship is like air: many of us need it but when you have it, it’s given for granted. When you don’t have it, everything seems more than difficult: insurmountable.
When I’ve started to become aware of that, it became clear that I wanted to spend some of my free time to befriend people who may feel isolated from others such as homeless and elderly.
Whilst becoming their friend, I’ve discovered that “there is more joy in giving than receiving” (Acts).
This Christmas 2018 was a wonderful renewed chance for me to contribute to build a family for and with everyone, together with new helpers. Everyone can help. An inclusive family. This year, like every year, the Community of Sant’Egidio organised many Christmas lunches and dinners all over the world for homeless and older people. Here in London, we had two Christmas Eve dinners full of joy, hosting more than 200 homeless and older people. Many have answered the calling to help and more than 150 people mobilised to help.
Those dinners are a chance for me to freely give back dignity and respect to everyone who feels marginalised by simply listening to others. Yet it’s by the simple act of listening to our homeless and older guests, that we ourselves (together) discover the power of what a freely given gesture can do even to our own lives.
One of the helpers for example, said that an older woman who came to the dinner kept whispering “I’m so happy, I’m so happy”. That was after she received a knitted hat as part of her Christmas present, a present that had her name on it. She was happy because she had lost her old hat just a few days before. Who knew that a woolly hat would make someone so happy?
There’s more. The joy that is sparked from free giving, is contagious. The volunteer said that seeing the older woman behave like this made her happy, so happy that she said it was one of the best Christmases she’s ever had.
I discovered the power of giving back. I’m so grateful of the freedom I have to speak with and for homeless and older people, and how much fuller my life is since I’m part of the big family of Sant’Egidio.
I think that these shared moments are what life is about. And the more we are, the merrier. So if you’d like to join us in London and see for yourself what Sant’Egidio is all about, "feel free" to find out what we do here.