14 Feb 2019
$125 WORTH MORE THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE
THE MOST PRECIOUS MONEY I’VE EVER SEEN
I ask that the Salesians of Don Bosco and the entire Salesian Family throughout the world make known how much good is being done everywhere—not vjust by us but also by many persons, groups, and institutions. We have to make the good known, to make it visible. For if we don’t, only what’s evil and egotistical is seen, for this is made visible and known—but only for the selfish interests of a few.
My dear readers of Salesian News,
I greet you warmly again and, this time, with special joy on account of what I want to share with you.
During the recently ended Christmas season, one of the members of the general council, Fr. Guillermo Basañes, councilor for the missions, was able to spend Christmas in two very significant presences of ours in Uganda. In one of these there is a large group of children whom we have rescued from the streets and who live in our Salesian house. The second is the refugee camp in Palabek, where we arrived to minister on January 31, 2018, just a year ago, and just months after the first refugees had arrived there. It was at that moment that we decided that we SDBs ought to be there, among them, and share life with those people—who today number 42,000, and the number is still growing.
Fr. Basañes and I met during the first days of the new year, and he gave me two envelopes. One comes from Kampala, Uganda, from the educational project Children and Life Mission, and the other from the Palabek refugee camp. Inside each envelope was a brief message.
The children rescued from the streets and living in Don Bosco Boys Home, together with some churches in their neighborhood, took up a collection to send to me. They asked me to use it for the poorest people whom I meet around the world (as if they themselves are not poor!). Inside, I found $100, the fruit of the generosity and sacrifice of these people and these boys.
The other envelope was just like the first. That one came, as I said, from the refugee camp. The people there practically have no cash and generally barter with food, animals, etc. For example, some raise half a dozen chicks, allow them to fatten up a bit, and then exchange them for other foodstuffs. This gives them just enough to survive; but when asked to help those who are poor, hundreds and hundreds of persons got going and took up a huge collection. They sold some chicks for coins and then added to that amount what they were able to collect at the various Masses celebrated under the open sky and the trees (such is their church at present).
I opened the envelope with great emotion and found therein $25 and two coins (one of 100 shillings; the other of 200 shillings) with a note asking me to give this money to those who need it most. I was alone in my office at the time and was unable to contain my emotions. This was such a touching and special moment that I just couldn’t keep it to myself. Therefore I immediately thought of sharing it with you. You know that I already shared with you something like this when I wrote about those two wedding rings that had been sent to me and the symbolic value they carried with them.
The Gospel passage came to mind wherein Jesus pointed out to his disciples the poor widow who had put all she had—two little coins—into the Temple treasury in Jerusalem and how the Lord praised her for her generosity because it was authentic. This is what I see in these two donations—in that $125—the most precious dollars I’ve ever received in my life.
This made me stop and ponder the human heart. There is such beautiful humanity in our hearts. Lamentably, it seems that the world can put before our eyes only bad news and threats from which we need to protect ourselves. This includes the news that’s often the fruit of “obedience” to political, economic, or ideological interests. But the human heart is much greater than that. There’s not only bad news!
I hope to be able to save from oblivion the many good things that happen each day and make them known. I want to rescue from oblivion all the good that’s done anonymously in the world each day. And I ask that the Salesians and the entire Salesian Family throughout the world make known how much good is being done everywhere—not just by us but by many persons, groups, and institutions. We have to make the good known, to make it visible. For if we don’t, only what’s evil and egotistical is seen, for this is made visible and known—but only for the selfish interests of a few.
I still haven’t had the chance to meet the refugees in Palabek personally. I don’t know whether I will ever be able to go there in person, but through my Salesian brethren I’ve sent my thanks and my word that we don’t forget them and that they, too, are very important.
Simple gestures such as these that I’ve just shared with you give us ever greater hope for humanity. They lead me to give thanks to our good God for the very many beautiful things that happen each day. They also make me think that good intentions and nice words aren’t enough to change the realities of injustice and marginalization. This challenges me and many of us—and who knows, maybe you, too, dear readers?—not to be passive and conformist but to shine with the light of Christ and be critical in the face of what “others” want to make us believe, or feel, often through fear tactics.
The heart of our beloved Don Bosco was brilliant and always firm in purpose and decisive in not being complicit with anything that didn’t have at heart the good of his boys or their families (if they had any).
I send my greetings from Rome to the people, families, and children of Palabek and Kampala. I am certain that your messages and your gestures will reach much further than you imagine. I promise you that those $125 haven’t only left an indelible memory in my heart, but that they’ll also reach where they’re needed. Those people will know the immense value of this gift because of its origin and the great generosity with which it was given.
With much affection—