Argentina: The poor? "An outstretched hand towards us"

With families in the San Miguel neighborhood. This is how the CL community in Maschwitz wished to experience the Fourth World Day of the Poor. More than a gesture of philanthropy, but a real celebration.

A few days before the World Day of the Poor to which Pope Francis invited us, along with friends of CL in Maschwitz, we began to ask ourselves how we could live this invitation. During this year, after having tried for a long time to organize together a stable gesture of charity, in the less appropriate circumstances, we developed a friendship with a family from the neighborhood of San Miguel, near the area where we live. This neighborhood has often been the place of our openness that is full of amazement towards the poor, their dramas and wounds that they remind us of. Specifically, friendship with Esteban Róbalo, who died five years ago, a beggar from the parish and a true angel for us, brought us there. It was thanks to him that we got to know the neighborhood and continued to go there out of friendship with his family.

This time, and thanks to our friendship with Liz - with whom we sing together in the choir - we were invited by her family. María and César are among those who the Pope calls the saints "next door…those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence,” yet no one talks about them.

With María in mind, this year, as soon as Covid allowed us, we organized "popular pots”. These were meetings in which we were able to make ourselves available to people close to us who are going through difficult times, to bring food to their table. Many friends participated in different ways, cooking the food and serving the "take-away" dishes at the home of this family and at the houses of some of their friends who made themselves available.

How is it possible for us to live the World Day of the Poor without putting ourselves in the position of rich people giving to poor people who receive? We discussed this in a preparatory meeting in which all the richness of gifts and temperaments within our friendship emerged. We understood that we wanted to have a party with our friends, the saints "next door" (a party abiding to all the regulations imposed by the pandemic), to continue it as best we could according to the circumstances.

María, César and their family accepted the invitation and proposed that we continue the day by visiting several families in the neighborhood who had asked for companionship. We took a cake to share and an image of the Virgin as a visible sign of our belonging to the same community.

Sunday, November 15 came, and we met at Lalo and Rosi's house to celebrate with a delicious roast and some nice songs. Then we got ready to go and visit the families waiting for us. From the beginning one thing was clear: the day had started with a party because life and friendship are a gift, as María reminds us every time we exchange a message. We went to share these gifts, to bring that certainty that dwells in our consciences as "beloved children".

We said to each other: "It is in the communion between us believers that the Spirit expresses itself, so let us do this gesture together. It is in our unity, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, that our belonging to the real Christ, not to our idea of Him, is assured. This is the first reason that urges us to follow the gestures that Francis proposes to us as gestures of unity. A unity that does not want to be a 'demonstration of strength', but is an educational reason to help us turn our gaze towards His Advent." We also shared part of Francis' message and we prayed to Our Lady asking Her to "transform the outstretched hand - our gesture - into an embrace of sharing."

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When we arrived in the neighborhood we split into three groups because we had to visit twelve families and so we could see everyone. What did we find? Mostly open people, eager to receive in order to share. Vulnerable people, open to dialogue, eager to be understood and embraced. They were mostly people of Paraguayan nationality (like César and his family), workers with stories of struggle and deep wounds, but also with a deep-rooted and surprising religiosity. They were simple encounters, full of great freedom and gratitude, in which no pretension prevailed, because Pope Francis asked us to “unassumingly offer to help." We were cheered by their smiles and moved by their sorrow.

It was a day full of encounters that allowed us to live the same passion as our friend María. The day ended with the awareness of a step towards deepening the friendship with her family and with those whom the Lord places on her path. We took another step towards the "realization of our own need for an outstretched hand".

Carolina and Guillermo, Maschwitz, Argentina