Do you remember that photo I gave you for Christmas? I want to tell you something about it. Well, if you’re back home take it out and let’s look at it. What do you see? I bet you see a little girl holding something. Her folks didn’t have any sweets in the house, so her grandma filled a cup with sugar to calm her down… She doesn’t look all that happy, does she? Actually, she looks quite meditative, right? And calm down?! Why? Hmmm… She is five years old.
Her mom has just left to Italy to work because her family isn’t doing well at all. The whole country’s economy is a circus. She was left behind with word to take care of her 2 years old baby brother and of the house. Why, of course she isn’t happy! Last night her dad forgot to pick her up from kindergarten because he got drunk again… So she stayed with the cleaning lady. She is a nice woman. She even brought her a new pair of pants since the only pair she has is always falling off her. After her dad finally showed up, he took her home and dragged her by the hair all the way to the living room where he was going to strip her naked and beat her with his belt just like he normally did. This time it was because she had asked for fried eggs. She was hungry. Anyway, thanks God grandma came by this morning! She is kind of ill and everything and most of the times she doesn’t visit them because she can’t stand the scandals her son always starts over the silliest of things. But last night was very important for our young lady here: she won. She got away without being beaten. As her dad was sweeping the floor with her, shouting and calling her names, she suddenly, out of nowhere dared to look up at him and through her tears asked him: ‘Daddy, don’t you remember that you are an angel?’
Where did that come from?! She’d been born and raised in a house of atheist. God was never spoken of. Angels didn’t exist. There was no such word. Only two years have passed since the fall of communism -the church is still feeble and people are still scared to attend the Sunday Mass. Who told her about angels and stuff like that? And most importantly, why did her dad stop? Why did he instantly let go of her and fall silent? Why did he look as if he’d been struck by lightning?
Bee, look at her! She’s quite silent and not very social. She doesn’t really have a lot of friends because they seem to be … happy and she doesn’t know how she feels – most of the times she doesn’t feel anything. She watches documentaries about lions and she climbs on the washing machine and impersonates Ceausescu in front of her stuffed toys. She listens to classical music and loves making mud pies. She doesn’t understand the concept of ‘0’ and hates learning English. She cries a lot – but never when her dad hits her head to the walls or kicks her. She cries before it happens and after. Before – because she is scared, and after – because she doesn’t understand why. She thinks that if she hides under the table he won’t find her. She thinks her mom will never come back home. She is actually starting to forget all about her. She stays up late at night and protects her brother from the kitchen bugs which crawl all over the house. She thinks they can bite. During those hours she imagines all sorts of things and makes up stories in her head. Her favorite is the one in which her doll is actually alive and speaks to her. They do everything together and she finally has a friend with whom she can run away from home and build a nice house next to the sea. She’s made a very detailed plan and all she needs is for her doll to come to life… She’s still waiting for it to happen. I mean, if it happened to Pinocchio, it will surely happen to her doll too, right?! And then they can sneak out at night and be free. Of course she’ll take her brother with them too! This girl…this girl always dreams about stuff! About nice toys and crayons, about beautiful shoes like her mates have, about her mom and dad going on holidays and never fighting, about herself being a teacher and taking care of other kids… She draws all these things on the walls.
Last night she understood something very important. Something that will help her all throughout her life: her father is not her Father. Her Father is her father’s Father too. So her father is her brother. This is exactly what she was thinking of at the moment her father-brother’s buddy popped in with a camera and took her picture. While that photo was being taken she was making the craziest choice a kid could ever make: to treat her father as she treated her little brother: with compassion. In a house where no prayer had ever been heard she was crazy enough to choose God. She was crazy enough to choose to love. That was the last time she’s ever felt scared of anyone. That was the last time she felt alone or really desperate. She learned that if you choose to see the best in people they will become their best. She learned that her body is only a body. She learned that what you can’t see is more powerful than what you can and that day dreaming is planning.
And there you go, Bee. 24 years later her mom and dad are her best friends, her family had survived the hurricane, her dad had overcome his addiction by the time she reached 7 and her mom came back home. They all worked hard and built a new life and she had a great childhood and youth.
That is the most important picture I have because it was taken exactly at the moment when I understood that He saw the best in me. But it’s not just about seeing the best in people. It’s also about seeing the best in the situations we have to deal with. If everything around is a mess, it’s a clear sign that there is gold somewhere very close to where we’re standing. All we have to do is move on and focus on catching the sparks. And when we find it we must accept that only by kneeling down in the dirt we can dig it out and pick it up. Make it ours.
I am so happy she is with you. I am so happy that she is there close to you. Sometimes I talk to her. You know, when I forget who I really am: my Father’s daughter and everybody’s younger or older sister.
…Bee, did you know that your fist is as big as your heart is? ; )
The Empty Chair in Front of You