Charitable Work with a New Openness

Monica sees something beautiful in singing to the elderly with some members of her community and, by being true to her desire, begins a charitable work.

I’m beginning to understand Fr. Giussani’s proposal that “we do charitable work so that we may learn to fulfill the task of becoming ourselves.” I had a conversation with Fr. Ettore and Fr. Pietro, who said that we all have an innate need to give, so doing charitable work is a fulfillment of this need of ours, rather than our giving to a need. It is insufficient to start with the sole motive of meeting the need of others. Since we can never fully understand the need of others, we can only guess or presume their needs. The truest way to enter into charitable work is when there is something beautiful within us that we desire to communicate to others.

My recent experience of charitable work verifies this so beautifully. In fact, I found that charitable work initiated from this desire can be an opportunity of friendship and an invitation to more. This past Christmas we invited another family to join us at a local senior living center to sing Christmas carols with the homebound residents. It was so well received, and brought so many smiles to the residents and joy to us! Our one-hour plan soon turned into two hours and was a highlight for my entire Christmas. This experience spurred me on to think, “We’ve got to go back ... I feel so alive and there is Someone outside of myself at work here.”

So, I proposed this to the senior living center, and they eagerly accepted that we would come back every month for a sing along with the residents. The first time we went, the gathering space was packed with residents, some independent, some wheeled down by staff or loved ones. We mingled with the residents with song books, chatting and introducing ourselves. After just a few songs, I looked around and everyone was singing, including those reportedly “non-verbal” residents from the memory unit, and even the receptionist at the front desk! Our young kids were spontaneously doing actions with the songs, dancing, and singing, and the energy in the room was palpable.

One of the most beautiful and surprising things has been an opportunity to invite friends outside the Movement to join us is this encounter. We have friends that are not ready for School of Community but can come and enter into our friendship and get a glimpse of the life we share. For one dear friend, the invitation to help with music for charitable work has also been an opportunity to come back to School of Community with a new openness. I, too, have experienced a new openness to look for life and joy in the simple things, and to recognize that charitable work is for my life. I need this to become more fully myself.

Monica, Minnesota, USA