I'm posting just only a few for now. Will add more as time allows.
(To the baby I lost in a miscarriage)
                                                                                                  by Lillian GODONE-MARESCA
We couldn’t even arrive to give you a name
or to know whether you were a boy or a girl,
but we’ll love you forever all the same,
and forever you’ll be part of our world.
Although friends may tell you to just move on,
a miscarriage means tears, bereavement, and loss,
even if faith remains firm and strong
and all the family together bears such terrible cross.
Today, as years went by, the pain healed somehow,
with wonderful children to give joy to our days.
But from time to time up to Heaven we raise our eyebrows,
and scrutinize the skies in all possible ways--
--until we find you there, whether it’s sunny, cloudy, or starry,
next to God and still next to us,
tiny little angel that in my womb I carried
even if only for less than three months.
We wish at our table we had one more seat.
But you’re not just gone as some people think:
From Heaven above you watch our sleep,
little angle dressed in light, whether blue or pink.


                                                                                            by Lillian Godone-Maresca
(When at the beginning of our adoption quest, before any child had been identified)

Although we don’t know where your prayers come from,
we can see your tears as you ask God for a family and a home.
We wake up hoping for you every new day at dawn.
Why can’t our waiting family become your own?
We ignore your gender, age, and background,
but still can hear your little heart pound
when you think your challenges are more than you can surmount.
You are the child we’re praying for, but have not yet found.
We can notice the imprints of your little feet and crutches on the ground.
We can feel your pain when things are too high if you’re wheelchair bound.
We can hear the groping of your small white cane if your eyes can’t see around.
Why aren’t you right now with us, in our home, our Parish, our town?
When we meet, our emotion will be reciprocal and profound.
It’ll be just the six of us, as in the evening the sun goes down.
Time will stop, and we’ll perceive no other movement or sound.
In awe and gratitude to the Heavenly Father our souls will abound.
We want to wipe your tears.  We want to hold your hand.
For your frail steps, we’d like to make our carpet softer than sand.
Are you only a few minutes away, or in a remote foreign land?
Do you speak a language that we can understand?
But we know for sure that the day will arrive
when you’ll be home and become one of mine.
You’ll have all the love of a sister and two brothers at that time,
and a grandma to spoil you, because she’s one of a kind.
We want to heal your little soul from all the fear and all the pain.
We want to show you that there are lots of things you can do all the same.
We want to hug you, be with you, whether to sob, to pray, or play games.
Soon God will bring you to our home because He hears all heartfelt claims.
                                                                                                   by Lillian GODONE-MARESCA
Whereas abortion means concealment and fearful compliance,
being Pro-life means openness and fearless defiance.
Whereas abortion means women who are scared,
the right to life about gossip and criticism does not care.
Whereas abortion means parents who judge and punish,
pro-lifers mean parental love that doesn’t vanish,
but embraces child and grandchild without hesitation
because in greeting new life only the coward have reservations.
Whereas abortion means male oppression of women as short-lived toys,
a pro-life lifelong commitment is never to be destroyed.
Whereas abortionists find fatherless homes to be good excuses for killing,
pro-life supporters believe that single mothers can make a living.
Whereas abortion means sheepish bowing to societal pressures,
we only care about the safe arrival of little treasures.
The Virgin Mary didn’t care about her contemporaries scorn and disbelief,
and Jesus was condemned as a social activist, for Whom there was no relief.
While agonizing on the Cross His love embraced us all,
no matter our many weaknesses and our constant falls.
He had called all children to gather by His side,
and had blessed the orphan, the oppressed, the deprived.
Abortion implies that an unwanted child doesn’t justify nine months of trouble.
Instead, through adoption, two mothers make maternal love double.
Abortionists regard a delayed child as a burden to be discarded.
Instead we know that no human being should be deemed or called retarded.
Abortionists claim theirs to be the upbeat, fashionable viewpoint,
matching our times of choices and challenge, freedom and turmoil.
Yet, to this simple issue, the conclusion is very easy to reach:
Which one is the progressive, tolerant position—and which one is the obsolete?

                                                                         by Lillian GODONE-MARESCA
Tiny unborn baby with a beating heart,
defenseless little infant still in the womb,
will a baby book proudly show your life starts?
Or will you be killed with no name or tomb?
You are meant to be somebody, to grow up,
to be hugged, to have a voice.
But, unlike any female beast loving her pups,
in you, your human mother may not rejoice.
She may kill you with impunity
because the law gives her that choice.
Excuses include college, financial insecurity,
a career--and even fun and noise.
She may deny you were ever there,
and refuse to give you any further thought.
But if one day--somehow, somewhere,
she finds herself scared or in a tight spot,
a tiny angel from Heaven above
will ask the Good Lord to hold her hand.
You’ll be that little angel full of love
--and maybe one evening she will understand
that next to God she has a child,
praying for her despite what she’s done.
And she’ll shed tears even if her life is wild
--and she’ll regret to have refused to be your mom.
                                                                                                                Final Version: 10/29/06

                                                             by Lillian GODONE-MARESCA
How would you color Christmas?  Everyone seems to know,
and would easily answer, In red, white, and green.
Just look at the colors when streets and houses glow,
at the lights, holly, and tinsel that prompt our dreams,
or at the wreaths, bells, and bows you see at the mall.
But the real colors are the different shades in people’s skin,
because Jesus was born among us, to die for us all,
and remind the world that we’re all equal and akin.

                                                                      by Lillian GODONE-MARESCA
Blonde, shiny hair is particularly exposed to lice,
and upscale neighborhoods are not free from mice.
We are all members of the one and only human race,
no matter our socio-economic status or the color of our face.
Jesus was born among us, to die for us all,
no matter whether our occupational stature is short or tall.
He welcomed those whom the world had forgotten,
and cautioned us that power and beauty symbols may get easily rotten.
He never showed off His glory or His might,
because He didn’t come down to earth to prove Himself right.
He lifted those who had fallen,
and reminded us that material riches may get easily lost or stolen.
He showed us that there are no shades to His light,
because in Heaven there is no black or white.
He was born in a poor, simple, cold stable,
and gave us His Body and Blood at His last paschal table.
For all of us He was nailed to the Cross
--for the foreigner, the hungry, the homeless, the lost.
That’s why Christmas and Easter are the same in all countries and on all coasts:
because they’re about loving those neglected, rejected ones that He loved the most. 

                                                                              by Lillian Godone-Maresca
To Father James Rafferty, Father Pat Murphy, and others, to whom our family is forever thankful for their help in many ways in our adoption journeys
Having a word and a smile when someone is feeling down,
helping Catholics and non-Catholics alike all around,
voicing the pain of the slaughtered unborn who can make no sound,
serving the King who never wore a gold crown,
looking for those who got lost and still haven’t been found,
lifting off anxiety when hands shake and hearts heavily pound,
making all feel that they’re important and that everyone does count,
doing the work of the One Who loved us with no bounds,
being willing to make an exception for the sake of a good cause,
understanding that humans and families come before policies and laws,
wrapping in God’s love those wounds for which there’s no antiseptic or gauze,
working for Jesus and others without fear, hesitation, rest, or pause,
strengthening people’s faith by wiping out any shadows of doubt,
not just with words and a blessing to withstand the flooding or draught,
but by helping their earthly horizons get rid of some clouds
and by paving smoother walkways for their earthly routes,
that’s what being a priest is all about--
--and that is, Father Jim, Father Pat, and many others, what you do all year round.




     To my children, Catherine, Gerard, Warren, Thomas, Nicholas, Stephen, Maximilian, and Philip Godone-Maresca, who share an extraordinary love for each other, and a true, deep concern for anyone in need or distress.

    In memory of my parents, Armando C.E. Godone-Signanini and E. Nydia Soracco-Godone, who gave me unconditional, unlimited love, and  who taught me to trust God, to protect human life from conception to natural death, to abhor racism, and  to see Jesus in the homeless and the hungry.

    In memory of my maternal grandparents, F. Theresa Maresca-Soracco and Francesco Soracco, for those same values, and their endless love.


            Lillian GODONE-MARESCA is a proud mother of eight wonderful children, who in this egocentric society are totally selfless and always ready to reach out to anyone in need. Her three older (biological) children spontaneously do for their younger brothers more than any parent can imagine, expect, ask for, or even dream about. They simply love to do everything their younger siblings may need, from skill development to personal hygiene. Lillian is a licensed attorney with graduate studies in Psychology whose life call is motherhood and whose professional passion is writing.  Her work is inspired by her solid Catholic faith and her growing up in a family that provided her with total, complete, unconditional parental and grandparental devotion. Despite a privileged upbringing, she was always taught that social justice and social sensitivity take precedence over socio-economic status and social profile.  Her writings are eloquent messages about the power of prayer, the right to life without exceptions, the rights and well-being of the disabled, and racial equality, and family values, emphasizing the permanence of the family bonds even after children turn eighteen, the multi-generational family, continued harmonious parenting even after divorce, and that true equality cannot be achieved if people keep on talking about differences. 
            Lillian also self-published Poetry to Serve the King Who Came to Serve, Etiquette for All, and The Wonders of Homeschooling.  She has several articles published on homeschooling issues in California Home Schooler and one in Heart and Mind, besides some articles in the Rancho Santa Fe Review on volunteering as a family. 




                                        by Lillian GODONE-MARESCA

Loretta could have never imagined the extent to which her children’s lives and her own would be enriched simply because of a washing machine that had gotten out of order at the wrong time. Or had it been at the right time?

            It was an old washer, bought second-hand from an ad in the Penny Saver, which had already made it for almost two years, until it had started to make weird noises and to stop from time to time.  Loretta would watch it, praying that it would keep on going for at least a little longer, so as to allow her the time to gather enough money to buy a new one—also second-hand and at the lowest price possible, hoping to be able to count on it for another two years.

            The rest of Loretta’s house was totally different from her laundry room, though.   The walls were covered with family pictures, old and new.  The old ones were eloquent testimony of a much more illustrious past, of which she was very proud—maybe too much.  The living-room and dining-room could have been used to shoot a movie where the action took place in some European mansion, and the characters had a title to their names—as Loretta’s ancestors had had. Those pieces of antique furniture and furnishings had, indeed, been in Loretta’s family for generations.  Some jewelry items had recently ended up in a pawn shop—as loans, though, and every quarter, Loretta would pay interest, or service charges, in order to keep those treasures for her kids and the generations to come.   As for the ornamental items, she would never part with all those china sets and figurines that were real family heirlooms, and spoke of more privileged times long gone.  Actually, those tea and dinnerware sets that looked like museum pieces had been what her family had used in the past, not as decorative items, but at their everyday table.  

            The house itself was remarkable, with five bedrooms, and located close enough to Rancho Santa Fe for Loretta to imagine it was physically situated in the Covenant, thus allowing her to direct all her family’s social activities towards that area. 

            Loretta was a mother of three.  Her son and her two daughters meant everything to her. Finding herself unable to give them anything comparable to what she had easily had in her own childhood; Loretta had gotten too used to resorting to her background in order to compensate for her lack of a Midas’ touch.  Actually, she even preferred to tell anyone who might want to hear that her ancestors had had much more than what she could presently afford.

            The beautiful suburban surroundings of their Southern California home as well as its antique indoor décor allowed her a chance to keep up appearances, though. Nobody needed to know that they did not own, but rented, that house, and that she did not

The Coin Laundry
even have a couple of hundred dollars in her savings account.  Nobody needed to know that they prayed every month to be able to make timely rental payments. Even with meager financial resources, she had full command of all etiquette rules, and had managed to keep on interacting in the same kind of high end social circles in which her family had formerly belonged in Milan.      
She shared her house with her elder parents, who did not feel equally enthusiastic about living so much beyond their means. What if something unforeseeable happened?   What if one day they became really unable to keep on having a roof over their heads?  What if--?  Loretta didn’t want to even think about all the risks lurking around the corner.  If her van showed any signs of potential trouble, she would panic—because monies would not be enough to pay for the repairs.  If some food item got rotten in the refrigerator, she would feel like crying—because not always were there enough monies for new groceries.  If there was a special event, she would start worrying—because, as much as she liked social activities, there were no monies to afford them.  If the washing machine broke down, how would she manage to replace it?  That was exactly what had just happened at that time.  
            Loretta was far from being a socialite, and was not the jet set type in the least.  Her social circles included friends and acquaintances from parochial activities, volunteer work, and home schooling groups.  Actually, she very much preferred acquaintances over real friendships because only by avoiding too much interaction could she keep on pretending a social status that her family no longer had.
And, yet, no matter how very much she cared about the name of her ancestors, Loretta was not haughty, arrogant, or even aloof in dealing with anyone.  On the contrary, following in her own illustrious predecessors’ footsteps, she was honestly and deeply concerned about social justice, about the betterment of those whose voices were not always heard, about the poor and the oppressed.  She was concerned about protecting life in the womb. She was concerned about denouncing any lingering evidence of racism and prejudice in the community.  She was concerned about unveiling the hypocrisy of many who, while ostensibly helping those less fortunate, acted towards them in an overly patronizing, demeaning, perhaps politically correct but morally wrong way.  And she was concerned about making up for her own excessive pride of her family name.  
Loretta’s husband had died unexpectedly from a massive heart attack while still in his early forties.  It had been her fault that, at the time of his death, their life insurance policy had been no longer in force.  She had deemed it extremely important for her kids’ well-rounded education to book a trip to Italy and a few other European countries, even if to the cost of not renewing their policy and pushing a couple of credit cards to their limit.  Then, when the unforeseeable had happened, she had found herself having to deal with the loss of the only man she had ever loved, while also helping her children heal from their grief, and faced with financial problems she had never known before.    
           But she was doing an excellent job in raising their three kids with unconditional devotion, and teaching them, by word and
The Coin Laundry
example, to have strong faith, solid values, and social sensitivity.  Yes, no matter how very much importance Loretta placed upon her own privileged background, it was undeniable that she did have a heart for anyone in need or distress. 
After her husband’s death, her parents had moved in, to help her with child rearing, emotional support, and finances. All together, they had succeeded as a family—but all their household income combined was not enough for such a steep rent, landscape and swimming pool upkeep, which, per the terms of the lease, was their responsibility, daily living expenses, extracurricular activities for the kids, an active social life, and pet care for two black Labradors.  
            Loretta’s extreme concern with socio-economic status did not hurt anyone except her and her own family.  In her misguided efforts to give her children the very best, for some time after her husband had died, she had tried to continue paying for a private school for them, while the refrigerator at home was almost empty.  She would never forget one terrible Halloween, a few years before, when she had arrived to think about her kids’ overflowing trick-or-treating bags not as nuisances that might rotten their teeth, but as partial solutions to help ease the hunger by making it up for the groceries she was then unable to buy.  One .25c/ instant soup or ready-made mashed potatoes from the 99 c/ Only Stores with a couple of candies as “dessert” could be acceptable menu options for a while, with some children’s vitamins thrown in to make sure they had, in the end, proper nutrition.  She had been telling herself over and over again that her son and daughters were healthy, and that everything would be fine, if only she managed to spare them the emotional trauma of having to be pulled out of that small private school. Whose emotional trauma was she thinking about?   As much as she wanted to convince herself that she was doing it for her children, deep inside her heart she very well knew that the only real emotional trauma there was her own. 
            After losing her husband, and upon realization that her master’s in fine arts wouldn’t be of much help in the job market, Loretta had decided to get her real estate license and become a residential sales agent.  She loved art, but was able to recognize that her own artistic abilities were not that great.  She did not want to get a 9:00 to 5:00 job either, because that wouldn’t have allowed her to keep on being a full-time mom.  Her parents were more than happy to spend unlimited time with their grandkids, but still Loretta loved being with them as well, and didn’t want to lose that with a full-time job.  By that time, she had already shifted from private school to home schooling.  She had gotten licensed in real estate, and had joined a large company in the same high end neighborhood where they lived.  And, yet, no matter how willing she was to work hard, Loretta’s hardest task was giving out business cards to social acquaintances and making follow-up calls. She was terrified at the thought that anything in her words or demeanor might betray how very desperate she was to close a deal.  Although her teenage years were long past, Loretta felt more like a teenager in search of approval to validate her own self-esteem.  As a matter of fact, she was as preoccupied with social status as an adolescent might be with peer acceptance and physical looks.  
The Coin Laundry
            Besides, when able to close escrow on a property, her commission would soon be gone in catching up with all those accounts in which she was behind and reducing her credit card debt—only to keep on using any available credit up to its maximum until the next deal. 
            Her three children, Anthony, Gianna, and Theresa were happy, caring kids, growing up with unconditional love from their mother and grandparents.  For them, Loretta had adjusted some of her impractical views.  She had changed her initial thoughts of garage sales and thrift stores as disgusting options, where people bought other people’s junk.  Long before, when things were better from a financial standpoint, she had promised herself that her kids would never have second-hand toys or clothes.  But she had been sensible and flexible enough to realize how very easy it was to buy second-hand Little Tykes toys, which were fully washable. Children’s formal wear could be washed as well, and that was the only way she could still afford it after things had changed.  There were other educational toys also, besides Little Tykes.  And small knick-knacks for her kids’ rooms. And children’s books and movies. And clothes, whether formal or casual, for everyone. Why not?  She had ended up spending her Saturday mornings hunting for those treasures that someone else no longer wanted—and, nevertheless, even at garage sales prices, quite often she did not have enough cash to buy all the second-hand items that had caught her attention.  She would drive about fifteen minutes away from where they lived, as in her area there were almost no yard sales at all.  In addition, buying at their nearest St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Store was a good way of helping the Church. In the end, except for some almost unique formalwear pieces carefully kept from times long past, Loretta’ wardrobe, the same as her kids’ and  her parents wardrobes, no longer included any clothes purchased at any department store any more.
            In addition, as new technology over the last few years had made picture reproduction so much easier, she had had the great pleasure, and pride, of finally being able to display all over their house those old black-and-white family photos that before she had carefully kept in a cabinet, away from sun and dust. And she kept on adding more and more pictures of her kids.  She wanted friends, acquaintances, and even clients, whom she frequently met at her residence, to see her girls on stage doing ballet.  She wanted them to see all three kids serving the homeless at a downtown shelter.  She wanted them to see Anthony playing basketball at the Y.M.C.A.  She wanted them to see Gianna’s exhilarated expression after her first rollercoaster ride.  She wanted them to see that adorable picture of Theresa hugging one of their Labradors. And that picture of Anthony zooming down a slide when he was three.  And baby pictures of all three kids.  And, of course, pictures of their baptisms.  And First Holy Communion pictures of Anthony and Gianna.  And pictures of all of them with their late father.  And the list would go on and on and on.  There was almost no room left for any more pictures on the walls.  She had then added one more item to her list of second-hand purchases, as she had started looking in thrift stores and estate sales for antique frames that would match the antique furniture and furnishings in her home.  That was for the old black-and-white portraits of her ancestors. She wouldn’t buy any other antique item, though—because she took pride in knowing that all the valuable items she had were true family heirlooms.
The Coin Laundr

For her kids’ pictures, she would hunt after solid wood and ceramic frames, for which thrift stores and garage sales were the perfect places where to look.
            Although she frequently referred to her background, she would never do so in any way that could hurt, offend, or upset anyone.  She had been raised to be kind and considerate to everyone, and would be always careful to avoid any overtone of superiority.  It had been in her efforts to let everyone know about her family’s illustrious past without hurting anyone’s feelings in the process that she had developed a way which had ended up compromising her own self-image and self-esteem.  In order to mention her upper class roots without sounding haughty, she needed to introduce something negative into her statements. Why not about herself?  And she would tell everyone over and over again how very difficult it was for her to make a living, and how badly she felt because of how little she was able to give to her children by comparison to what she herself had had in her own childhood. 
            Whereas it might be true that she could not afford to visit either Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm more than once a year, if at all, Loretta was giving her kids a fine education.  After coming to terms with her inability to continue paying private school tuition, she had started home schooling them. She had even joined a charter home schooling school pursuant to having free curriculum, a monthly allowance for any extracurricular activity she might select, and field trips and enrichment classes at reduced cost.  As part of her daily routine, she would drive her kids back and forth, and would make phone calls from her cellular phone while waiting for them, in the hope of getting a few more clients. How unpleasant those calls were, though!  She would take homework books everywhere, to use at a fast food restaurant with her kids in between lessons, or to correct some homework when by herself.  Yet, what she enjoyed the most was volunteering with her kids to serve the homeless at a downtown shelter and visit the elder at a nursing home.  She did care, and so did her children.  Anthony was ten, Gianna was eight, and Theresa was six-and-a-half, and they were all “expert” volunteers already.  In participating in those community service projects with her kids, Loretta could feel the triple benefits of maternal pride over her kids’ good hearts, the internal reward of serving Jesus by serving those in need, and some relief from the guilt associated with her excessive concern with social status—and, yet, she could not get really rid of that guilt.
            At that moment, though, Loretta could not spend time in thinking about guilty feelings, as she needed to do something about her non-working washing machine—and needed to do it fast.  She had a real backlog of dirty clothes claiming immediate attention.  Anthony needed his basketball jersey.  The girls needed their leotards for ballet.  All three of them needed their choir t-shirts.  Everyone needed everyday clothes and linen.  Dirty jeans, pants, dresses, blouses, towels, sheets, pillow cases, blouses, shirts, t-shirts, jackets, coats, socks, and more were piling up like crazy.  As much as she wanted to replace their old washer, there was no way she could afford to do it at that moment.  Not even another second-hand
The Coin Laundry
one. Not even the cheapest, oldest, most obsolete and most spoiled one she could find.   No matter how very nice San Diego Gas & Electric’s billing department had been in working out a payment plan with her, she had fallen behind all the same, and had finally received a disconnection notice.  She had been able to successfully handle several delinquent bills by taking the initiative and being the one to dial the phone rather than waiting to receive a call, and by never evading a collector if the call did come. And, one way or another, she had always managed to take care of all her bills in the end.  At that moment, she needed to take care of her electricity charges—and there was another disconnection notice from Cox Communications. They also were kind and understanding, and Loretta expected to be able to make once again payment arrangements that would hold the balance for a few more days.  Also, there were two Visas and one Master Card for which minimum payments would be due within a couple of days.  And—what about the car loan for her van?   That one would become due pretty soon as well.
            Despite how very much she disliked the idea, she would have no other option than to use a coin laundry for a short while, until closing escrow on a listed property she had just sold and getting her commission.  She didn’t even know where to go for a coin laundry.  There were none nearby.  Typically, those who lived in that area didn’t have a need for that kind of business.  Why she, then?  She tried to find comfort in the idea that, at least, in all likelihood, her command of the etiquette rules was much better than any of her neighbors’, who, beyond doubt, didn’t have to wash their clothes and bedding outside their homes.
            There was a coin laundry not too far.  Of course, Loretta didn’t intend to take her kids with her.  Coin laundries were filthy and unpleasant.  She wouldn’t allow her children to sit on chairs where others might have dumped a bunch of dirty clothes before.  No problem.  Her parents were always more than eager to take care of their grandchildren at any time.  Loretta did not even need to ask.  She knew she could make any appointment counting on her parents’ availability to look after her kids.  Even if they did have a prior commitment, they would be willing to reschedule it for Loretta’s sake.   After all, they were retired, and their daughter’s appointments seemed to be more important for the entire family than any appointment they themselves could have.  Typically, Loretta accepted her parents’ good will, knowing that one day she herself would do the same. 
            Yet, that morning, she would get a surprise.  Her parents would refuse to look after their grandchildren for her to go to a Laundromat.   Why couldn’t she take them with her?  Loretta would respond to their question with a question of her own: Why would they, for the first time, refuse to look after their grandkids?  And her parents would have an excellent reason that they would verbalize.  But, at that moment, still they themselves didn’t know to which extent their decision to refuse would impact the lives of their daughter and, consequently, their grandchildren as well forever.
            It’s not a bad idea for the kids to see that things are not so easy for everyone, her mother had said.
      The Coin Laundry
            You can’t raise them properly if you always shelter them from any exposure to another kind of reality, her father had added.
            Loretta had felt deeply upset by that remark, which, precisely, had touched upon her own sense of guilt, and had argued that she did take her kids to volunteer to serve the needy.  They all had been in homeless shelters several times already—even Theresa, who was only six. 
            We know, but it’s not the same, her father had replied.  They go there as volunteers, to help others, to do charity.   Instead, they’ll go to the coin laundry as customers.  It’ll be a different kind of experience.
            It’ll be the kind of experience we never gave you—and we made a mistake in that, her mother had clarified. 
            In her heart, Loretta had immediately gotten the message, and had agreed that her parents did have a very valid point.  They had taught her not to look down upon anyone, not to judge others by socio economic status, not to even mention her own privileged background—and, yet, they had never dragged her to have any actual contact with what poverty, powerlessness, or discrimination really meant.  She would take her children to the coin laundry.  It might be good for them after all.  Still, first before leaving, and then all the way to the Laundromat, Loretta had kept on telling her kids over and over again that they shouldn’t touch anything, that they should make sure they didn’t drop anything, and that, if by any chance they did drop something, they shouldn’t pick it up, but should tell her.   Had that happened, she would have picked up the item with a tissue, would have put it inside a Ziplock bag, with tissue and all, and would have washed it at home—not just once, but two or three times.  And she had kept on telling her kids to let her know in advance if one of them needed to go to the bathroom, with sufficient time to wait for the washing or drying cycle to end, pass the clothes to a dryer or take them out, and then look for a restroom somewhere else, in a nicer and cleaner place.              
            As they had arrived to the Laundromat, Loretta had found herself perplexed by all the different options for laundry detergent.  The instructions were not clear—at least, she didn’t find them clear.  And she would need a whole bunch of quarters.  She had not thought about that.  As she was telling her kids that they would need to go somewhere to get change, a young woman with two little girls had asked her whether she was looking for coins, and had offered to make change for her.  
            Great!  If she couldn’t avoid being there, at least she wanted to get started without delay, so as to be done without delay as well.
            Loretta had thanked that young mother very kindly, and had warmly commented on how extremely cute her two little daughters were.  Then, as she was ready to make her laundry detergent selection, she had found herself at a loss again.  The instructions were not any clearer than before having change.  Where was she supposed to put her quarters?  How to get the brand and kind she wanted?  Was it that the instructions were really confusing—or was it that she felt so very uncomfortable in that place that she couldn’t actually read them?  While struggling with such hard decisions to make, about where to insert her quarters and how to get a little package of detergent, Loretta had kept on watching to make sure her
The Coin Laundry
kids did not, in fact, touch absolutely anything there.   No, they weren’t.  They were just looking at those two little girls, who appeared to be about four and two years old, and who were really cute.
            Then, the little girls’ mother had come to Loretta’s rescue again.
            What kind of detergent are you trying to use?
            And she had guided Loretta step by step, including how to get her detergent, which washer was best to use, and how to start her washing cycle.   Loretta had thanked that stranger again, and had commented once more on how adorable those little girls were.
            How old are they, and what are their names?
            When asked about her daughters, their mother’s face had lit up, and she had replied, They’re four and two, and their names are Dawn and Aurora.   
            Although Loretta had enthusiastically exclaimed that those were beautiful names, her initial reaction had been to think that such name selection would better fit a melodrama or, perhaps, a Disney fairytale than a set of real life little sisters. Why had she selected two names that meant the same?  But then, their mom had told Loretta that she had selected those two names that meant the light of sunrise because her two girls had been, indeed, the sunshine in her life, and the beginning of a new life for her.  They were everything she had.  They were her pride and joy, and living proof that there was a purpose in her being on the face of earth—and she expected her daughters to have much easier and pleasant childhoods than the one she had had. 
            Loretta had been moved by the stranger’s heartfelt words, and the love in her voice.  Loretta had felt like she needed to wipe a tear from her green eyes. And, nonetheless, still she was not prepared for an answer when that young mother asked her the names of her kids, and how old they were.  Was it safe to reply?  The woman seemed to love her little girls with all her soul, but—what about those tattoos on her shoulders and on her arms?  Yet, Loretta had not dared refuse to answer.  She didn’t want to offend that woman who seemed to really care.
            Anthony is ten, Gianna is eight, and Theresa is six, almost seven.
 Loretta had felt confident there was no danger at all in giving some basic information.  That woman might not have a very sophisticated or educated appearance, but did not seem to pose any danger to anyone.
            Then, the woman had taken the initiative, and had introduced herself,
            By the way, I’m Amber.
           I’m Loretta.  Without hesitation, Loretta had stretched out her hand to shake Amber’s.  After all, she, Loretta, was the one who was supposed to have full command of all the etiquette rules--but it had been Amber, the one with the tattoos, who had done the right thing by taking the initiative in the introduction. 
            In the meantime, her kids were having great fun playing with Dawn and Aurora—and that was all right.  Why not?  After all, the two little girls were very, very cute indeed.  But then, to Loretta’s dismay, she had seen the older of the two little sisters offer a cookie
The Coin Laundry
to her youngest daughter—and Theresa was about to accept it!  For a moment, Loretta had forgotten that she did not want to hurt Amber’s feelings. She had walked up to Theresa, had removed the cookie from her small hand, and had told her,
            No, you shouldn’t have any cookies.  You had tummy ache this morning.
            Needless to say, at the age of six, her daughter hadn’t understood that Mommy was only coming up with an excuse, and had immediately protested,
            No, Mom, I feel well.  I didn’t have tummy ache this morning. 
            Well, Loretta had said, trying to find her words, you don’t like peanut butter, anyway.
            At that second attempt, it had been Amber who had destroyed Loretta’s new excuse,
            The cookies are not peanut butter, but chocolate chip.
            Loretta had tried one last time,
            The truth is that I don’t allow my kids to eat anything without washing their hands first—and today I forgot to bring hand sanitizer with me.
            As Gianna was about to say that she had, indeed, seen the hand sanitizer bottle in her mom’s purse, to Loretta’s surprise, Amber had put her hand into her bag, and had pulled out a small hand sanitizer bottle of her own.
            She can use it if you want—but don’t worry, I’d be doing the same thing if I were in your place.  I understand. 
            So, she, Loretta, the proud one, in the end was not any more careful about keeping her kids’ hands clean than Amber, the less educated one, was. Loretta had been impressed by the fact that, the same as she did, Amber also appeared to be carrying a hand sanitizer bottle with her everywhere she went. 
            No, please, don’t take it wrong.  It’s almost a psychological issue about germs with me, Loretta had said, in order to find a justification that didn’t sound offensive.  The truth was that she was more concerned about keeping her kids clean than she was actually afraid of microorganisms—but the germs had seemed a better explanation, because those didn’t know about differences in birth or socio-economic status.
            I can see you’re not used to this place, Amber had replied. You don’t have nothing to apologize for.  I would not let my girls eat nothing offered from nobody with my tattoos either. 
            Loretta had felt really uncomfortable, really sorry, and really guilty. Amber’s grammar might be far from proficient, but she did make lots of sense.  Even if against her will, Loretta had, in fact, hurt her feelings.
            It’s not that.  I had not even realized about your tattoos, Loretta had tried to say.
            I told you that you don’t have nothing to apologize, Amber had insisted.   I don’t like my tattoos no more.  I got them when I was younger, and now don’t have the money to have them removed. 
            Loretta was feeling increasingly touched, increasingly remorseful, and, actually, humbled by what Amber had to say.  Amber might keep on using double negatives in her sentences, but, in all likelihood, she was doing much more for her kids than she, Loretta, was.  Both of them were single mothers—but, unlike
The Coin Laundry
Loretta, Amber was a single mother with no help.  After all, Loretta was only trying to fictitiously keep her children interacting at the same socio-economic level her family had had long before in Milan.. Amber, instead, was trying to take them out of the impoverished, unpleasant, unsafe environment in which she had been raised, and away from the regrettable kind of childhood she herself had had.  
            After making her kids use the hand sanitizer that Amber was offering, Loretta had allowed all three of them, and not only Theresa, to have the chocolate cookies that Dawn was offering.  Each one of her kids had had one—and Loretta had been impressed by little Dawn’s readiness to share.  Loretta’s children had been always willing to share also, but—they also had had more.  Even if always tight from a financial standpoint, she and her kids had always had many more doors open than Amber and her daughters had ever had.   That was, precisely, what Amber was trying to do: to open doors for her little girls, although nobody had opened any door for her before.   
            Amber had told Loretta how her mother had silently suffered abuse from her new husband, Amber’s stepfather, for a long time, and how she had only reacted when he had moved from wife battering to child abuse.  Amber could barely remember her real father, who had been killed in a fight, when trying to confront two white men who were ridiculing the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Yet, although her memories were not clear, Amber was proud of her dad, and honored him as a hero.  Her father had been of African American descent, and her mother had been from Mexico.  Amber’s childhood had transpired in a crime ridden neighborhood, and, in her teenage years, she herself had experimented with drugs.  She had never sold any, though, because she knew that drugs were bad, and had not wanted to damage anyone. But at the time, she couldn’t care less about damaging herself.  She was feeling she had nothing to lose. As Amber had phrased it, she didn’t have nothing to lose. Yet, that didn’t detract at all from the touching, compelling nature of her story.  Her mother had just died in a car accident that her husband, Amber’s stepfather, had caused by driving while drunk.  He had made it with only a few scratches, but Amber’s mom had not been equally lucky. Shortly before the accident, after suspecting child abuse, her mother had kicked her husband out of their apartment, but he had returned some weeks later, to try to convince his wife that nothing at all had ever happened.  And he had succeeded.  Amber knew that he had, indeed, abused her, physically and sexually.  Yet, she had not told everything to her mother, and she had believed him one more time—and it had been her last one, because he had taken her to the movies, and, on their way back, they had stopped to eat something, and he had drunk a couple of beers, and had then smashed their car against something.  Amber didn’t even know against what.  She had never wanted to know.  She had only known that her mom would not be able to hug her anymore—at least not on this earth. There was no one else she could trust and love.  She could barely remember her older sister, who had drowned when she, Amber, was only three years old, about six months after their father had been killed.  When her mom had died, Amber had tried to find some consolation in the thought that, in Heaven, she had rejoined her husband and her older child.  And she, Amber, had wished so very hard to be able to join her beloved ones!  Her stepbrother,
The Coin Laundry
whom she had loved as well, had followed into his father’s violent example, had joined a gang, and had ended up being killed from a gunshot.  After her mother’s death, Amber had gone to live with her boyfriend, who had abused her.  When she had gotten pregnant, he had wanted her to have an abortion. Amber had refused, and he had hit her so badly that she had had a miscarriage as a result.  Losing her baby had been devastating for Amber.  Even amidst so many adverse circumstances, she had cherished the idea of motherhood, at the idea of having a little one to protect, a little one for whom to seek a better life.  Having no other family members left nearby, Amber had then gone to live with her great-aunt, the only relative she had in town.  By then, she would not do drugs anymore—or, in Dawn’s words, she ‘would not do drugs no more’.  Did proper grammar matter so very much, anyway?  Loretta had started to change her views on many things.  Far from feeling that she was above Amber’s background and experiences, she was feeling humbled by the account of Amber’s struggles.  She, Loretta, had always been strongly pro-life, but—hadn’t if been much easier for her to defend the right to life than it had been for Amber?  She, Loretta, had participated in a couple of prayer vigils in front of Planned Parenthood, and she belonged to the Pro-life Committee at her Parish, and to an online Pro-life group.  There was no doubt that she was helping, but, unlike Amber, she had never been brutalized for trying to protect the life of a child.
            And Amber had continued her story.  A few months thereafter, she had met Kevin, and had gotten pregnant again, this time from him. Only then had she had a reason for the pain to start healing from the baby she had lost.  Amber and Kevin had gotten married, and soon after, Dawn had been born.  Amber had thought she would be able to have a new kind of life right then, as a wife and mother.  She did have some doubts about Kevin’s businesses, though, but had not wanted to know any more about them.  He had told her he was in sales, that he used to buy and re-sell miscellaneous items for a profit.  He had a partner, Skip, in whose garage all the resale merchandise used to be kept.  One day, when Dawn was ten months old and Amber was already pregnant with Aurora, the police had shown up with a warrant at Skip’s place, where Kevin also had been at the time, and both of them had been arrested on charges of dealing with stolen goods.  Her husband had gone to prison, then had gotten out on probation, and then had gone in again due to a violation of the terms of probation.   Amber had been shocked at the idea that the man she had married didn’t have a legitimate way of making a living, and, to make things even worse, he had never forgiven her for not condoning the kind of ‘business’ he did run.  She had learned that her husband’s partner, Skip, was a really dangerous man, prone to violence.  Skip’s wife had divorced him after he had hit one of their kids so badly that she had needed to call 9-11.  And Kevin didn’t seem to be much more trustworthy anymore.  During the time he had been back home on probation, once Dawn, then only two, was throwing a temper tantrum, and he had gotten really impatient, and had hit her really hard. As Amber had rushed to protect her child, he had hit her as well, even though she was holding little Aurora in her arms.  Amber had not filed charges, though.  She didn’t want her daughters to learn one day that
The Coin Laundry
Daddy had hit them and had hit Mommy, or that Mommy had sent Daddy back to jail.  And he would, indeed, go back to jail soon thereafter, but for a totally unrelated matter, without Amber filing any report.  The day when Kevin had hit them, Amber had waited for him to leave, which he had done, in order to ‘take care of some matters’, Amber had immediately asked a neighbor to look after her daughters for a short time, had gathered some belongings, and had  then asked the neighbor for a ride to her great-aunt’s house.  With free help from the Family Law Clinic at the courthouse, she had filed for divorce and sole physical custody of her little girls.  There were no assets to divide.  She was ready and willing to forego spousal and child support for the sake of having Kevin out of their lives forever.  He had never contested the divorce.  He had never filed for physical custody of even visitation.  It seemed he had just been sucked into another world, an underworld of violence, crime, and prison pals.  He did not care any more—or ‘he did not care no more’.  It didn’t matter how Amber would say it.  Loretta was finding in Amber’s story a much deeper sense of greatness than she could find in the elegant, upscale, impeccable surroundings to which she was used.  There were tears again in Loretta’s green eyes, and a lump in her throat.
 Amber’s great-aunt, the only person left in this world who could lend her a hand, had died from heart failure one morning.  Although she had not felt happy about it, Amber had needed to apply for welfare.  But she had gotten a part-time job as well, at a local store, and had enrolled in a certificate program in web design at Palomar College.  Her roommate at the apartment where she lived with her daughters, almost across the street from the Laundromat, was an elder lady.  Amber had not wanted a younger roommate because she wouldn’t take the chance of exposing her little girls to any kind of possible bad habits. Those two little ones would grow up with only good examples and good values.  Loretta had been as marveled as she had been moved by every word Amber was saying.  What example could be more inspiring, more uplifting to those little girls than Amber’s example itself?
            Time had gone fast, and the washing cycle had been over, and the drying cycle had been completed as well.  All of them were ready to leave the coin laundry.  Although she wouldn’t have ever imagined that before, at that moment Loretta had felt she did not want to leave.  She didn’t want to think she might never see Amber and her little girls again.  She had asked Amber when she planned on being back to the Laundromat.  Why couldn’t they try to be there more or less at the same time?   They could keep on talking while waiting for more clothes to get washed and dry up.  Initially, Loretta had intended to have her kids do some homework while at the coin laundry, but they seemed to be having a wonderful time looking after Amber’s little daughters and chasing them around. 
            With the reciprocal promise to try to see each other again, they all had left the Laundromat.  Although she had felt weird about it, several times over the couple of days that had followed, Loretta had found herself worrying about whether Amber would, indeed, be at the coin laundry at the time they had agreed upon.  Her kids had kept on asking her whether Dawn and Aurora would be there again at the Laundromat.  Loretta didn’t know.  All she knew was that she
The Coin Laundry
really wanted them to be there.  She wanted to make it up to Amber for not having been friendly enough, or encouraging enough, and, perhaps, not even kind enough.  Yet, she knew she had been nice and kind.  She had shown her empathy and her admiration for what Amber had been through.  Maybe, it was not simply that she worried about not having been sufficiently friendly.  It was that she wanted to see them again because she already regarded Amber as a friend. 
            And Amber had been there.  And she had seemed very happy to see Loretta enter with her kids.
            I didn’t think you would come this time, Amber had said.
            Why not? Loretta had replied.  I really enjoyed talking with you the other day.  And my kids had a great time chasing after your little ones.
            It had been obvious that Amber had felt surprised, impacted, and touched by Loretta’s answer. 
            I never had no long conversation with nobody like you before, Dawn had candidly admitted.  But that time, the double, or triple, use of negatives, had not even sounded discordant in Loretta’s ears.  That simply didn’t matter any more. 
            What do you mean by someone like me?  she had asked.
            You know—I don’t know how to say it, but--you have an education, you talk well, you—you don’t belong in a coin laundry!
            Loretta had felt again that big lump in her throat.  Her parents had been so right in forcing her to go there with her kids, as a family!  She had tried to tell Amber that she was not better because she usually had a washer and dryer in her home.  She was not better because her ancestors had had a title to their name.  She was not better because she had had a sheltered, pampered, overprotected childhood.  She was not better because nobody had ever abused her.  She was not better because she lived in a five-bedroom house in a high end neighborhood, and pretended to be living in an even more expensive one only a few miles away.   And, most importantly of all, she had told Amber that she would feel honored to have her as a friend.
            Somehow, down the road, or, actually, down the washing and drying cycles, the conversation had shifted to pets, and Loretta had talked about their two black Labradors.  Then, Amber had said that she had just bought a puppy for her daughters.  The puppy wouldn’t grow up to be too big, and her roommate liked to have some company when she was by herself in their apartment.  Small pets were allowed, and Amber was trying to raise her little girls in no different way than most middle class parents did.  By having a dog, she was trying to make it up to them for not being able to have a big house with a landscaped backyard. 
            Then, timidly, Amber had suggested that maybe Loretta’s kids might like to see her daughters’ new puppy. 
            If you don’t mind, all of you could come for a moment to our apartment to see the puppy.  It’s almost across the street, and I have a cherry pie that I baked right before coming here.  Of course, if you want to come.
            Loretta could clearly perceive how extremely important it was for Amber to hear her say yes.  It was as important as it was to her to keep on living in the past, trying to keep up appearances of a lifestyle she could no longer afford.  It was even more important for
The Coin Laundry
Amber perhaps.  Amber needed to feel accepted for who she was.  To Amber, it was not a matter of social profile, but one of her own self-worth.  And Loretta had no doubts that Amber had much more to be proud of than most people typically do.  She desperately wanted to accept Amber’s invitation—and, yet, as a mother, she still had some concerns. She believed Amber to be honest, trustworthy, she believed her to be an example for anyone to emulate, but—what if she wasn’t?  What if her story was no more than a lie, a scam, a trap?  Had she been by herself, she would have said yes without hesitation—but not with her kids.  Not yet, at least.  Even if in her heart she felt sure that there was absolutely no danger, she didn’t want to take the chance.
            We’d love to go, and my kids would love to play with your puppy, but I have an appointment to show a house to a client, she had said, once again trying to come up with excuses.  Why don’t you come with your daughters to our house sometime over the weekend?  It’s a little farther, but not that far.
            Loretta knew that there was no risk at all in having Amber over at her residence.  She knew there was no risk in going to Amber’s apartment either—but, just in case, it seemed to involve a greater chance to take her kids to a stranger’s place than to have that stranger over at their house.
            My apartment is very clean, Amber had said.  But--if you don’t want to take your kids, I understand. 
            Loretta had been able to notice the pain, the bitterness, the hopelessness in Amber’s voice.  Obviously, Amber was feeling that nothing would ever change, that, no matter what she did, she would never be able to pull herself and her little ones out of, and up from, her past.  What about the cherry pie?  Had Amber baked it thinking about inviting Loretta and her kids over to her place?  Had she baked that cherry pie for them? At that moment, Loretta had decided that she had to go with her kids to see Amber’s puppy.  The only trap around that situation was the trap of old, obsolete stereotypes.  Loretta didn’t want to fall into that trap.  She was intelligent enough to realize that Amber was a loving, devoted mother and an honest, trustworthy, courageous human being.  Therefore, after the washing and drying cycles had been completed, they all had gone together across the street to Amber’s apartment.  The elder lady had been very happy to meet them.  As Amber had anticipated, she was very pleasant and very nice.  And they all, kids and grown-ups alike, had played with the puppy, and they all had talked, laughed, and eaten cherry pie. 
            They all had had a wonderful time.  Loretta had been truly impressed by how impeccably clean Amber’s little puppy was—cleaner than her Labradors, that got messy, sweaty, and muddy in their backyard, and she not always had time to bathe them as frequently as needed.
            Loretta had made her invitation again, for Amber and her daughters to go over to her house that Saturday.  Amber had been thrilled about that ‘real’ invitation, and had been even more impressed and moved upon seeing how very kind and considerate Loretta’s parents were to her and to her daughters. That gratitude was not like it was with most of the families that were part of Loretta’s habitual social circles.  Those families were polite, and
The Coin Laundry
they did, of course, enjoy the pleasant and refined company of Loretta and her family, but to them, it was no more than one additional friendship, one additional birthday party, one additional commitment among thousands of others.  Instead, to Amber, being so warmly and enthusiastically welcomed in Loretta’s house had a much deeper meaning.  It meant that her efforts were not in vain, that doors could, indeed, get open, if only she kept on trying hard--and found some more people like Loretta’s family on her way.  It meant that God was helping her.  It meant that she could, in fact, continue dreaming of a much more promising future for her adorable little girls. 
            They had kept on meeting a couple more times at the coin laundry, a place that.  Loretta had arrived to perceive in a totally new, different light.  Her parents had very well known what they were doing when they had insisted that the Laundromat would be a valuable, positive, eye-opening experience.  But the ones who really needed the lesson had not been Loretta’s kids, but Loretta herself.  
After that couple of times, escrow had finally closed as expected on that property that Loretta had sold, and she would buy another washing machine, even though, again, a second-hand one.  To her astonishment, she had found herself having mixed feelings about not needing to use the coin laundry any longer. 
            Yet, that didn’t mean they wouldn’t see Amber, Dawn, and Aurora any more.  Her kids really liked those very cute small ones.  Why not to invite them to Theresa’s upcoming birthday party?  Why not?  Weren’t Amber and her daughters among their circle of friends?  Amber did have those tattoos that she herself didn’t like any longer, and did use double negatives in her speech.  But Loretta wouldn’t be ashamed of someone she had selected, and wanted, as a friend.  She wouldn’t teach her kids to discriminate because of socio economic background.  She knew Amber would act in a discreet, polite manner, and would try at all times to avoid making any mistake.  If someone happened to dislike Amber so much to the extent of disliking her, Loretta, as a result, why would she care about someone with such a distorted perception of what human dignity really meant?  She had been raised to judge people according to their actions, not to where they had been born, how much money they had, or what their occupation might be.
            From then on, Loretta would find that making her phone calls as a realtor was no longer so very difficult.  It was time to stop trying to convey the impression that they could somehow survive from investments from a glorious past, and to acknowledge that there was no shame in trying to earn a living.
            And, from time to time, she might again even invite Amber with her daughters over to their residence, and encourage her to take part of her laundry load in a bag.  Why couldn’t Amber do some of her washing and drying at Loretta’s house?
Also, Amber had been talking about getting her daughters involved in religious activities.  Why not at the Parish that Loretta and her family attended?  It was not that far from Loretta’s apartment after all.   She was sure everyone would welcome Amber and her little girls there with no reservations.  That had been Jesus’ message to the whole world, a message that He had sealed with His most precious Blood. That was what her strong Catholic faith was
The Coin Laundry
all about.  Jesus Himself had reached out to the poor, the derelict, the outcast.  Therefore, she, Loretta, would not feel ashamed of introducing Amber to anyone as a friend.  Who cared about some grammar mistakes? Who cared about the tattoos that she no longer liked? After all, it made absolutely no difference whether they had met at a fundraiser, at a gala, in graduate school--or at a coin laundry.    


                       by Lillian GODONE-MARESCA

     To my daughter, Catherine, who, when she was a small child, succeeded better than anyone else in my family to help me overcome my former fear of the homeless, and see in them the real human beings they are.

    To my surprise, after having written this story in 1999 and having published it for the fist time in 2007, on January 24, 2010, I read in Yahoo News about a very similar real life story. The headline was, “Homeless vet honored for last heroic act.”

     When little Lorraine had disappeared, the hearts of the entire town had gone out to her and her family.  Everyone had tried to help in one way or another.  Some people had joined the search parties.  Some had called the police, with supposedly helpful ideas, suggestions, or hints.  Someone had seen a man loitering around.  Someone had noticed a woman scolding a child.  Someone had been startled by some movement in the bushes when walking to her car. Someone had heard a suspicious noise in his backyard.  Someone had found a broken toy in the street.  Someone had seen a shadow passing by her window.  Many of them had offered help to the
A Bum Sleeping Under The Stars
devastated, shattered, inconsolable parents—at least a shoulder on which to cry.  And all had prayed for that little girl’s safe return.
     When Lorraine had appeared, crying, confused, scared, with a couple of bruises and skin lacerations, but basically all right, everyone had cheered.  Everyone had celebrated.  Everyone had rejoiced.  Everyone had given thanks because prayers had been answered.  
     And, when Lorraine’s kidnapper had been found and put behind bars, everyone had felt relieved.  Everyone had felt happy that the streets in town would be safe again.  Everyone had been glad that the perpetrator would be punished, and justice would be served.
     But when people had learned that a homeless man had been found dead with a knife wound on his chest, nobody had given much thought to the incident—except for worrying about their town not been any longer the safe haven it had been before. 
     And then, little Lorraine had started recovering from that terrible, shocking experience, and had started talking about a big bad man who had grabbed her, had put her in a vehicle, and had hurt her—and about an ugly-looking good man who had saved her. 
     That second man had a scary look, and the little girl’s first thought had been that he would join the big bad man who was about to hurt her even more.  But then, the ugly man had told the bad man to release her.  As the bad man had not let go of Lorraine, the newcomer had hit him, and the two men had engaged in a fight.  Then, the ugly-looking man had shouted out to Lorraine to run away, not to stop, and not to return, no matter what.  Little Lorraine had hesitated for a moment, and that had given her time enough to see the big bad man pull out a shiny knife, and attack the scary-looking, yet good man, with it.  Lorraine had arrived to see blood gushing out of the fallen good man’s chest, and still she had heard his voice one last time, shouting at her, Run!!!  Run!!! Run, and don’t come back!!!
     The little girl had run, and run, and run, without daring to look behind.  Then, she had passed out, and had been found by a laborer on his way to work in the very early morning, before dawn. 
     Even after coming back to herself, for some time Lorraine had been unable to remember those terrifying events—until one point, at which those memories had returned.   She owed her life to some unknown benefactor who had not hesitated to sacrifice his own.  Thanks to that stranger, Lorraine was able to hug her mommy, daddy, big brother and sister, grandma and grandpa, aunt, uncle, and cousins again.  Thanks to that stranger, an entire family had come back to life, after having feared the worst, after having felt that their lives had ended as well, together with Lorraine’s, as their hopes to see her again had become dimmer and dimmer when the dark of that terrible, horrible night had covered the town without any hint of her whereabouts. 
     Lorraine’s mom immediately started to make numberless phone calls to local law enforcement and government authorities because she wanted to make sure that said ugly-looking hero received a proper, honorable burial, which she and her husband were more than willing to provide.  Too late.  Arrangements had been made already, after some forensic issues had been taken care of.   That man’s mortal remains would never get the burial he deserved. 

A Bum Sleeping Under The Stars
    Yet, there was much more to him than the body he had given up for the sake of a child.  Lorraine’s mother had gone to the family’s parish, where Father Scelli had been more than happy to celebrate a memorial Mass in honor to that unknown homeless man.  He would personally make sure that a large print announcement be posted in the Parish bulletin one week in advance, on the parochial school board, and even in the local newspaper.  He would make his own verbal announcement at every Mass he would celebrate before the time scheduled for that special one when that hero would be remembered and honored.
     And Father Scelli and Lorraine’s parents would not spare any efforts to make sure the church would be full for that special Mass.  The phone would ring in many residences, giving notice of that last tribute to be paid that unknown martyr.  And the Parish would, indeed, be filled.  It would be a very emotional, very moving Mass.  A little girl was alive thanks to that stranger who used to wear dirty clothes and who had had a long bushy beard.  That man’s appearance would have made any family hold their children out of his path.  And, yet, he had given life back to an entire family—even if, in doing so, he had voluntarily sacrificed his own.
     That night, that unknown man had fallen asleep once again under the stars—but for a much longer sleep.  For the eternal one, as his body, drenched in a pool of blood, had stopped all movement, and his soul had been carried by angels up to the infinity from where the stars shine, from where they had shown over him night after night for so many years.  He had gone to sleep every evening under the skies since that day when his wife had dumped him four months after his return from the Vietnam War.  She had been unwilling to put up with all the bitterness, all the pain, all the emotional upheaval he was carrying from the horrors he had witnessed in the war.  He had never hit, disrespected, or disparaged her, though.  Yet, one day she had told him she was pregnant with someone else’s child.  He had simply walked out of their home and out of her life with just a few personal belongings, and had never claimed anything back from her.  She was expecting a baby, no matter whose baby that was, and he had not wanted to cause her any distress.  He had not cared about how much distress she had caused him.  And he had always wandered in silence whether that child could be his own after all.  Year after year, from the distance, he had watched that child grow up, with a mother and a father, and, yet, he had always imagined that that little boy could be his flesh and blood.  And that belief had become increasingly stronger over the years, but he had never voiced it to anyone. Although he had become unable to make a living for himself, he had his veteran’s benefits, plus extra cash from some odd jobs here and there, and had always kept on anonymously sending money orders and gifts to that child who might or might not have been his son.  Despite his failure to keep a steady job, he had been always ready to labor hard on a day to day basis for cash pay.  He had never drunk or used any illegal substance. He had had a college education, even though it had been interrupted by the war, and, yet, had never spared any efforts to undertake the hardest tasks when working under the sun for meager cash pay.  When the demands of those who had hired them for the day had been more

A Bum Sleeping Under The Stars
than excessive, he had always offered a hand to undocumented aliens working in the same very hard labor with him.  Some were
too young, and it was unfair that they should be working so very hard. Others had families, and, therefore, had also better reasons to take care of their health than he had felt he himself had.
     Rather than using those monies and his veteran’s checks to secure a roof over his head, he had made the streets his home, and had saved almost every penny for the child he loved.  After all, why would he need any more for himself?  He had only cared about that boy, whose legal father was also some sort of a bum, although of a different sort, similarly unable to keep the same job for too long, but fitting the much more comfortable, much more frivolous, and, yet, much more socially acceptable description of a married playboy.
       All the money orders he had sent had never born anything but an illegible signature. The toys had never included a gift tag.  That child looked so very much like him!  Over the years, he had become increasingly certain that he was, in fact, his biological son.  And, yet, his only concern had been whether so many anonymous remittances might end up causing a problem between the two people that little boy considered to be his mom and dad.  And, despite the not always commendable example of his known mom and dad, that small boy would grow up to turn into a fine young man.  Following his graduation from high school, he would receive a surprisingly large money order, to partially pay for college tuition and expenses.   From time to time, during his teenage years, he had received, together with a gift, a short note with no signature, with some good advice about faith, family values, hard work, and resistance to peer pressure.  The boy had never known where those gifts, monies, and advice came from.  And he would never know—at least, not for about seventy more years.  Not on this earth.  Although the kidnapping and the stabbing had happened only a few miles away, it had been across county lines, and the local paper in the son’s town would not have a word about those facts.  They were not important enough.  The kidnapper had not succeeded in hurting any child, and had been put behind bars.   Who would care about a scary looking individual who did not even have a place to live?  Actually, he had just moved his habitual sleeping place to a neighbor county in order to evade local efforts to persuade the homeless to get into shelters.  But—had that been the real reason?  Hadn’t there been another much more powerful one from above, as a former war hero was meant to become also a civilian martyr, and save the life of a little girl? 
     Anyway, that young student would never learn about the death of a homeless individual in ragged, dirty, smelly clothes   He would never know about the death of a man who, in a pool of blood, had not awaken one morning to the light of sunrise.  At least, he would not know until that day, after about seventy more years, when he, in turn, would be very old and sick, surrounded by children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren next to his deathbed, and angels would come down and guide him to the eternal land.  That day, upon completion of his earthy journey, he himself would be called to that infinity beyond the stars.  Then, he would meet that unknown benefactor, who, whether or not his biological father, had loved him as a son.  
A Bum Sleeping Under The Stars
            For the time being, that young man would wonder, though, what had happened to that anonymous person who had cared so very much about him, but had never tried to approach him in any way. 
The last present received from him had been a sizable money order, covering almost full tuition for a course for which his scholarship funds had not been enough.  And life would go on as usual.  That young student would never know about that other father, and would continue calling another man his dad.  Not many people would know about that homeless man’s death.  His country would never know how very much he had lost in the Vietnam War.  Nobody had ever placed a Purple Heart on his chest.  But those people praying together inside that small parish in that small town knew how very much he had given of himself, in that last act of heroism, to save the life of a child.  That stab wound had been the most eloquent testimony of his courage, much more vivid and dramatic than any medal that could have been bestowed upon him in a solemn ceremony, amidst reporters, professional photography, and clapping hands.  That ultimate medal of valor had not been pinned to his lapel, but had been engraved in blood directly upon his chest.
        He had been carried up by angels to the infinity from where the stars twinkle at night, and the world had kept on being the same.  Except for those people congregated in that small parochial church, nobody else would ever care much about his death.  Whereas that may be true for most individuals who depart this earth every day, only to be mourned and missed by a few, there was something much sadder and much less fair in that case.  Among those who didn't know how he had died, some might even have thought that the world would be better off without him.  After all, in their eyes, he had been no more than a bum sleeping under the stars.  

                                      by Lillian GODONE-MARESCA

            While cleaning up her master bedroom closet before the Christmas season, Victoria came across a folder full of meaningful poems and stories from different sources that she had accumulated over the years.  There it was!  So many times she had thought about that old, torn folder, and, yet, had never had the time to properly look for it.  As a home schooling mom of four, her days were filled with plain math, pre-algebra, algebra, language arts, science, social studies, chemistry, crafts, prayers, volunteer work, hugs, games, pranks, temper tantrums, meals, snacks, extracurricular activities, supermarket shopping, laundry, and, above all, love. Actually, the temper tantrums should have been over long ago, as her kids were not so small—but that was not always the case.  Anyway, her children had solid values, loved each other, and cared for others. So, they could be forgiven a small temper tantrum once in a while.   Victoria could clearly remember most of those stories and poems she had cut out from different newspapers and publications since her own young years, and many times had longed to have one of them handy in order to share it with her kids, whenever a tale addressed a particular holiday, a historical period they were reviewing, or just had some similarity with a little daily episode that had taken place in their very own home.

            Victoria sat down, and went over a moving story from an old Reader’s Digest about how, amidst all the horrors around her, an Auschwitz survivor had been able to find strength for herself and for others.  Tears came to Victoria’s eyes as she read how, despite the atrocities that she was witnessing, that courageous woman had been able to find a blessing in disguise in almost everything—and that had allowed her and some other prisoners in her pavilion to keep alive despite the torture, the injuries, the starvation, and the terror.
            Well, Victoria also had had her huge, infinite blessing in disguise.  She had her own powerful, compelling, inspiring story that addressed the very value of human life—a story that showed that only life can bring about life.  And, yet, it was a story she would never be able to share with those four young people she loved the most in the world.   The day that, in appearance, could have been considered the most unsavory, humiliating, infuriating one in her life, had been, on the contrary, the most important one.  Thanks to that day, her home was filled with those four beloved young voices.  Otherwise, there would have been only two, with no laughter, no smiles, no music, no enthusiasm, no joy.
That day, almost nine years before, when she had overhead a conversation between her husband and another woman, she had not believed her ears.  Even though for a long time, she had been having the feeling that something was going on behind her back, she had always tried to put those suspicions aside, and to trust her husband.  She had kept on telling herself that his vows to love and honor her forever, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health were as strong as hers were.  She and Bob had met
To Save One Child
each other about eight years before that. That meant almost seventeen years all together!  How had time gone by so very fast?  By the time she had met Bob, Victoria was already getting worried that she might never find her true love.  Most of her old friends had gotten married many years earlier already, and were already expecting their second, third, and even fifth child.  Would she ever have a chance of being a mom?  Meeting Bob had opened up a new world for her.  Although very pretty and outgoing, she had never been the party girl kind, and had actually been a little too old-fashioned perhaps.  Even though all her friends from her parochial school were serious, family-oriented girls as well, they had tended to consider Victoria to be too pampered, too overprotected, and too goody-goody.  To those comments from her peers, Victoria had added her very own labels for herself, and had developed an inaccurate self-image of a nerd or a bookworm, which did not at all match her decisive, spontaneous, and charming personality.  It did not match her preferences either, as she had always been much more interested in teaching good values to children and helping bring about social change than in theoretical contents or purely intellectual pursuits of any sort.
She had always been articulate, outspoken, with a sense of purpose, clear goals, and the drive to go for them.  She had always had dreams.  She had always known that her Knight in Shining Armor would arrive one day.  And she had also known it might not happen too soon.  It was perhaps because her parents had not met each other and married until later on in their lives.  Perhaps, she was just projecting her parents’ story into her own.  Or perhaps it was
because, like them, she had always been too serious maybe.  She would get her B.A. summa cum laude, her M.A. cum laude, and her Ph.D. in Special Education magna cum laude, without ever having had much luck in matters of the heart.  She would begin working, but not dating.  She would start thinking that her little nieces and nephews, and the kids in the special ed program in which she was working at the time would be the only children in her life for her to love.  She would even start looking for adoption possibilities as a single applicant.  Why not?  She loved kids, had a very special place in her heart for those with special needs, and, more than anything else, longed for a child she could call her own.
Her plans to adopt had given Victoria the necessary peace of mind to shift her thoughts away from what had started to become a constant, pervasive, almost obsessive preoccupation about getting a wedding ring on her finger.  It had been by that time when Bob had come into her life to change things forever.  They had met at a seminar that each one of them had separately decided to attend for different reasons.  As they were walking into the conference room, their eyes had met, and Victoria had felt a chill down her back.  She had smiled shyly, and had taken a seat.  And he had sat right behind her.  Victoria had not been able to pay attention to anything that had been said during the lecture.  She had kept on feeling his presence at her back, and had kept on resisting the temptation to turn her head.  During that recess that she had been waiting for so very eagerly, both of them had stood up, and, in a casual way, had just said, I didn’t think that so many people would attend this seminar, did you?  Without even knowing it, both of them had become engaged in an
To Save One Child
animated conversation, each one telling a perfect stranger about his or her career expectations and even personal goals for the future.  Each one of them was seeing the other one not just as a stranger, but, precisely, as the perfect stranger--perfect in terms of the dreams that each one of them had for a lifelong partner.  The recess would be over, and the lecture would resume, and none of them had even noticed it until someone had asked them to sit down and be quiet.  Needless to say, Victoria would continue not having the least idea concerning what the speaker was talking about.  All she could think of was whether that marvelous knight in shining armor she had just met would ask her for her phone number at the end.  Over the following break, he had offered to get a coffee for her, then had turned back, and had asked her, I don’t know what you think about this seminar, but I don’t find it very informational, and the coffee here is not very good.  What about going for a moment to the cafeteria downstairs?  The coffee is much better there.
 Victoria’s heart had bounced.  Of course she wanted to go to the cafeteria with him!  That was exactly what she wanted.  That was the answer to her prayers.  It had been the beginning of a dream.  And it had been a dream indeed.  It seemed that the two of them had been made for each other.  She would soon be at ease upon realization that Bob was serious about their relationship, and that he was marriage minded. Unlike Victoria, who was a devout Roman Catholic, very active in parochial activities and outreach projects, Bob did not actually have a particular religion, but was a believer, willing to have their children baptized and raised in the Catholic faith, and even to accompany the family to Mass from time to time
and on special occasions. He was not totally disinterested in spiritual matters, and held himself to be a non-denominational Christian.
Those sixteen years had gone by faster than expected. Their marriage had been blessed with four wonderful children, Emily, Kathleen, Martin, and Danielle. At thirteen, Emily had definite plans of becoming a clinical social worker, and finding ways of dissuading girls and women in crisis pregnancies from killing their unborn babies.  She wanted to help children with special needs, immigrant families, and anyone who could be considered less fortunate, less established, less accepted in the community.  Kathleen was twelve, only eleven months younger than her older sister, and extremely pretty.  And, yet, she also had selfless dreams of using her beauty and her gift for music to better serve God, the Pro-Life cause, and social justice by becoming an inspirational, motivational songwriter and singer.  Martin was ten, and was developing into a very considerate young man, with a remarkable talent for math, who intended to become a civil engineer, and work on big projects, but also put aside some time to volunteer directing the construction of more adequate housing for the poor.  Danielle had just turned eight, and already knew she wanted to be a pediatrician one day, and cure all children, without caring whether or not they had medical insurance, and whether or not their parents could afford to pay.      
Victoria remembered how disappointed, how frustrated she had felt when, about nine years earlier, shortly after Martin’s birth, she had realized she wouldn’t be able to have any more children.  She knew she was not so young, and, yet, she was not prepared for a change of life to happen so suddenly, so early, so abruptly. Her
To Save One Child
initial hopes of being pregnant again had soon been shattered by the reality that her feminine cycles were coming to an end.  They had three kids already, whom she loved with all her life, with all her heart, with all her soul, but—why couldn’t she have at least one more?  She had timidly suggested Bob that they could adopt a child in need of a home, and he had dismissed her dreams as if almost insane.  He no longer seemed to be the considerate, compassionate, caring man with whom she had fallen in love eight years before. He had started acting differently. She still loved him with no reservations, but deep inside her, she knew that something was wrong.  Did he still love her?  She was not so sure.  He appeared to get annoyed even with the kids, to have less patience for them, less enthusiasm in playing with them, less interest in their milestones.  Kathleen was the exception.  She was the only one with whom he could still smile, the only one for whom he would wipe out tears, the only one for whom he would clap hands after hearing her sing.  Although she knew there was nothing terribly wrong in that, she was feeling uncomfortable about her husband’s preference for their middle child.  Why did he have to have a favorite one?  Kathleen had gotten her passion for music from him, not from her, but—why should he be nice only to her?  Didn’t he love all their three kids in the same full, total, unconditional, infinite way?  Didn’t he love them all the same?  She loved Kathleen with all her life, with all her heart—but she didn’t love Emily or Martin any less.  What was her husband doing behind her back?  It was not child abuse, though.  That was something so low, so sordid, so repugnant that she could not even think about it.  What was it, then?  Did it have anything to do with his returning home later and later in the evening?  Did he
have a serious problem at work?  Was he about to lose his position as the regional director of a non-profit organization?  Or—was he seeing someone else after work? 
Yet, she had never seriously thought that he might be having an affair, that he actually might be making love with someone else.  At that time, Emily was four, Kathleen was three, and Martin was only fifteen months old.  Even though counting with her mother’s help, and with professional house cleaning every Tuesday, Victoria had been too busy to think too much about a potential rival lurking somewhere in the dark.  Or--was it that she did not want to think? 
Then, one day, she had overhead that terrible, awful, shocking conversation between Bob and a woman named Brianna on the other side of the line.  There had been something going on behind her back for quite some time already. Yet, he was telling that woman, whoever she was, that it was over, that he would not leave his wife and his kids—but he was also telling her that he wouldn’t support her in her pregnancy, and that she should better think what she wanted to do.  Was he actually telling his lover to abort the child he had helped her to conceive?  Victoria couldn’t believe that even less than she could believe that he was making love to someone else.  She had felt much more shocked, much more appalled, much more revolted at that than at the affair itself.  No matter how humiliating the idea of his infidelity was, she could still deal with the realization that her husband was a two-timer—but not with the thought that he was a murderer, willfully suggesting to
To Save One Child
sacrifice an innocent child only for her never to know the truth..
Yes, in just a second during the course of that distressing, unexpected conversation, Victoria’s major concern had quickly shifted from his husband’s unfaithfulness to that tiny life inside someone’s womb—no matter if that womb belonged to the woman who wanted to steal her life partner away from her and destroy her family. 
Victoria had found herself having mixed feelings. Why couldn’t she feel like any other woman in her situation would?  To her own surprise, she had found herself feeling confused, angry, furious, humiliated, betrayed, and, yet, somehow, deep inside her, suddenly also hopeful.  Why wasn’t she as angry as any woman in her shoes was supposed to be?  The surprising truth was that she was not as angry as she was scared. She was scared of losing her husband.  She wanted to think she’d kick him out of their home—but in reality all she wanted was to forgive him.  She wanted to make sure he would not dump her and their three children altogether to go to live with whomever he had had his affair with.  Yes, she did want to put his infidelity behind them, and to start all over again.  She was scared that it might be too late, though.  And, most of all, she was scared for that tiny baby who might never see the light of sunshine. 
Even if willing to swallow her pride, and to forget and forgive, that affair could not be just put completely behind them as if nothing had ever happened—because something had happened already.  There was a baby in someone’s womb, a baby who deserved to live—a baby Victoria was determined to save.  If her husband’s lover did not want her child, Victoria was more than willing to have a little huge addition to her own family. Why not? 
That child had been conceived in an adulterous act—but that didn’t matter.  Why should it?  And, even if it did, should a defenseless baby be killed for that?  To Victoria, it wouldn’t really matter.  Most likely, nobody besides their closest family members would even need to know.  Not even their other kids. That would be their fourth child to the full extent of the word—and, to her, it would be exactly the same as if she and Bob were together the biological mother and father of that child.
Despite how very much as she wanted to be angry at him, Victoria had found she could only be angry at herself.  Against her will, in just a few seconds, she had started to blame herself for all those times when, as night fell, rather than being ready for an intimate moment, she had been so very tired that she had only been able to close her eyes and sleep.  She had started to blame herself for having refused, shortly after their wedding, to take that cruise to the Caribbean that Bob wanted so badly.  They were not so young already, and her only concern was to achieve pregnancy, and, in such light, all she wanted had been to save money for eventual fertility treatment, in case it might be needed.  Despite having been always and unconditionally a devoted wife and mother, she had found herself taking the blame for not having even more free time for her husband.  Her thoughts were racing, but it wouldn’t take her too long to realize she was not at fault in any way, shape, or form.  After all, hadn’t she always tried to show interest in the movies he liked?  Hadn’t she forced herself to like and eat seafood, only
To Save One Child
because he liked it?  Hadn’t she always put up with Fred, a friend of his that he considered to be the most annoying, conceited, pedantic jerk in the whole wide world?  She had always been nice to his family, who had never helped them in anything, but—had he ever been really nice to hers, to her parents and her sister, who, on the contrary, were always ready and willing to lend a hand?  After all, who had helped them buy their first home?  Who had helped them catch up with their mortgage payments when they had gotten behind?  Who had been always happy to take care of their kids whenever needed, any day, any time?  It had always been her family, not his.  And, yet, he had never shown them any real appreciation for anything they had done.
As the telephone conversation between her husband and his lover was over, Victoria had stood up and had gone in front of the large mirror that they had on the sliding door of their master bedroom closet.  Her hair might be showing some gray already, but her skin was soft and even, with no wrinkles, and her eyes were sparkling, with that innocent, childish look she had never lost.  She was pretty, not in a provocative or sensual way, but with a naïve, distinguished, elegant beauty, which he should have noticed and appreciated more.
Her mind had been racing with thousands and thousands of thoughts.  But one thought had been the most compelling, the most dominant, the most pressing one, even beyond her pain, her humiliation, her distress.  That thought had been that tiny baby in the womb of a woman about whom all she knew was her first name, her readiness to steal someone else’s husband, and her unwillingness to become a mother.  She would not let that little baby die.  She would not let her husband become an accomplice to murder.  She really wanted to have more children.  Why not that one?  The baby
would not even need to know.  But—what if that woman ended up wanting to see her biological child?  Would she, Victoria, be able to let her rival into their lives as well?  Of course it wouldn’t be easy, but--wouldn’t the life of a child be worth the price?  She was sure that, no matter whether or nor that baby would ever know the truth, he or she would love her with no bounds, the same as she would love that infant in the same unconditional, infinite way, as her fourth child.  Eventually, she and Bob could make up the story that the baby had been carried by a surrogate, who had helped them conceive one more time.  There would be no need to talk about paternal infidelity. Their youngest son or daughter wouldn’t need to know. Obviously, Victoria did know—but she would be able to put that behind her, to forgive, forget, and move on.  Anyway, killing the baby would not wash away the affair her husband had had.  On the contrary, it would only stain his hands with innocent blood.  It would only turn what had happened into a much worse nightmare—one involving the destruction of a human life.  Victoria could imagine continue sharing her bed with a two-timer—but could not imagine keeping on making love with someone who had agreed to the killing of his own child.
She had realized she had almost no time to plan how to address the issue with Bob.  It had to be right then, at that very moment, before he left, without wasting any time, or otherwise it might be too late.  And she had talked.  At first, he had tried to deny
To Save One Child
it.  Then, upon realization that she had heard everything, word by word, he had fallen on his knees and had begged her pardon.  He had even cried, with his head on her lap.  They had hugged each other.  All she wanted was an excuse to forgive, an excuse to justify herself for not having more pride, more anger, more guts to tell him that it was over.  But she didn’t want anything to be over. She wanted everything to be a new beginning, perhaps with one more little one to love. She had told him about the baby.  She had told him how appalled she had been to hear that he was ready to have that woman, whoever she was, kill the child in her womb.  She had told him that she would be more than happy to parent that child, and even willing to let that Brianna he had had his affair with visit her baby if she so wished
He had been moved by her courage, generosity, compassion, and strength. Then, he had said those words that she had never forgotten over the years,
Victoria, God knows I couldn’t have asked for a better wife.
Eagerly, she had tried to find out whether he thought his former lover might be willing to go ahead with her pregnancy and give the baby to them.  Bob was not sure, but—possibly yes.  Brianna’s mother had been Catholic, and, even though she had died when Brianna was still in elementary school, and Brianna had never actually practiced any faith, she had good memories of her mother and of her First Holy Communion day.  That had been the last big event she had shared with her mom.  After her mother had died, life had been very difficult for Brianna, with an alcoholic father who had physically abused her, and who had never been able to keep a steady job.  Victoria had understood that her husband was not trying to justify his lover, but just giving his wife a little background information about how everything had happened.  Brianna was very intent in pursuing her career, moving ahead, as a way of trying to
make up for those bad times in her younger years—but she might have some scruples about having her baby killed.  Her doctor had presented abortion as the easiest way “out”, but—maybe she could be convinced to do otherwise.  Maybe she really wanted to do otherwise.
Victoria had asked him whether she also could talk to Brianna.  She would tell her husband’s lover that she was willing to forgive, and even to welcome her from time to time into their home to see her child.  All that she, Victoria, wanted from her was to make sure that the precious tiny life in her womb would be spared.  If in the end Brianna might decide to keep her baby, Victoria would not simply allow, but encourage, her husband to take care of his parental responsibilities, to visit his son or daughter, to take that boy or girl home to his or her siblings, and pay child support.  Yet, that was not what she wanted.  That was not the scenario she wanted to think about.  She wanted to be that baby’s mother, to have one more little one of her own. 
And it had happened exactly as Victoria had dreamt.  Initially, Brianna had not even believed that her lover’s wife would be happy to raise the child that had been conceived in an adulterous act behind her back.  She herself had asked to talk to Victoria.  The two women had met.  It had been easier than expected—and much more moving than Victoria had been able to anticipate.  Once again,
To Save One Child
Victoria was feeling angry at herself because her way of reacting was very far from being a common one.  But that uncommon way had, indeed, deeply touched Brianna’s heart.  She would tell Victoria that she did not really want to have an abortion, and that she even liked the idea of keeping her child—but, on the other hand, after seeing for herself the extent of Victoria’s love, devotion, selflessness, and compassion, she would not take away from her baby the opportunity of growing up with such an extraordinary, admirable mom.  And Victoria had found herself passing her arms around the shoulders of the woman that had been going to bed with her husband, and crying together with her.
Finally, Danielle had been born. Brianna had kept on visiting from time to time. Yet, at her own initiative, she would never tell Danielle or any one of the other three kids who she really was. The children would know her as Aunt Brianna, supposedly a second-degree relative on their father’s side. 
In one of those visits, Brianna would tell Victoria something that would bring tears to her eyes,
Victoria, I want to tell you that I’m really happy I didn’t know from the beginning what a unique wife and mother you are—because, had I known, nothing would ever have happened, and Danielle would have never been conceived.  I’m so happy she has a mother like you!
Victoria thanked God every day for the wonderful family she had.  She had four wonderful kids, and loved them all with the same infinite, undivided, total love.  She had nothing to fear from Brianna’s periodic visits, as she was sure that nothing else had ever happened, or would ever happen, behind her back.  Besides, all the visits had been when Bob was out at work because neither he nor Brianna wanted to meet each other again.
Then, there had been that day when that dream had almost turned into tragedy and lifelong grief.  It had been one Saturday
afternoon, when the family had decided to attend a multi-cultural festival in a nearby town, only fifteen minutes away.  Kathleen, then twelve, wanted to practice for an upcoming audition for a solo part at a Christmas show to be put up by their home schooling group. Victoria had not liked very much the idea, and had insisted that Kathleen should stay with her grandparents or with her aunt.  But Kathleen really wanted to stay home alone for the first time, and had been very adamant about it.  Well, that didn’t seem totally unreasonable.  Kathleen wanted to feel that she was growing up.  They could come back soon. They would quickly look around the booths, and would return before dark, to have supper at home.  There didn’t seem to be any real danger in letting Kathleen stay home alone for a couple of hours.  But then, unexpectedly, Danielle, then seven and a half, had asked to stay home with Kathleen.  Why?  Hadn’t she been very enthusiastic about attending that festival?  Was Danielle feeling all right?  Danielle had assured there was nothing wrong with her.  She simply wanted to stay home with Kathleen.  Shouldn’t they all change their plans, and just stay all together?  That seemed to be the most sensible thing to do.  But their educational partner, or assigned teacher, at the charter home schooling school they used had suggested that such multi-cultural festival would make a nice family project.   It wouldn’t matter if not
To Save One Child
everyone attended.  Emily and Martin, and, by the way, mom and dad, could take some pictures, gather some materials, and write a few notes, and they would be able to put together a family project all the same.
Before leaving, Victoria had made sure her daughters did understand that they were not supposed to have a bath or shower when alone in the house.  Her own mother had always been, and still was, almost paranoid about slip and fall dangers that could lead to head trauma and even death.  Since her early childhood, Victoria had repeatedly heard about the risks of spinning on a marble floor, skidding in a soapy shower or bathtub, or on the wet tile area by the side of a swimming pool, or pretending to skate on a polished floor. Many times had she heard that she could fall down, bump her head, and die. Although she had promised herself that, when she became a mother, she would not be equally exaggerated in her fears, there she was, with very similar, if not the same, warnings, worries, recommendations, and reminders.
The non-slip mat they used to have had gotten molded underneath, and it had been necessary to discard it.  Victoria had  intended to replace it with adhesive strips instead, but had forgotten.
Kathleen had complained that she wanted to have her bath when there was no competition for the hot water.  Actually, more often than not, someone always ended up having a cold bath or shower.  Yet, Victoria had insisted that she should wait until the rest of the family was back home.
But Kathleen had not waited.  She didn’t want to break the promise made to her mother, but—wasn’t she old enough to have a bath with no danger of falling down and killing herself?  Danielle had tried to discourage her.
You promised Mom not to do it now, Danielle had reminded her older sister.  I’ll tell Mom as soon as they come back.
I will tell her myself when they come back, Kathleen had replied.  I don’t want to lie to Mom—but I want to show her that I’m growing up, and know how to take care of myself.
Then, Danielle had come up with the idea that would save their entire family,
I’ll check upon you! 
Don’t open the door when I’m in the bathtub, Kathleen had said in a very serious tone of voice.
Even without opening the door, Danielle had kept on checking upon her older sister without allowing more than thirty seconds elapse before talking to her again.  Kathleen had started to get upset, and had asked her younger sister to leave her alone. But Danielle had not moved from the door.  Then, she had heard a noise, like a bump and a big splash.  And Kathleen had stopped answering.  Danielle had urged Kathleen to say something, and had warned her that otherwise she would enter the bathroom.  Still no answer.  And Danielle had, indeed, entered the bathroom, only to find her sister unconscious, with her head against the side of the tub, entirely into the water. 
Terrified, for a fraction of a second Danielle had looked out of the window at the infinity of the sky, begging God not to let Kathleen die.  Then, immediately she had pulled her older sister up

To Save One Child
so as to get her head out of the water, all the time shouting her name in a frantic, desperate plea, without stopping and without giving up.
Kathleen!!!  Kathleen!!!  Kathleen!!!   Kathleen, open your eyes!!! Kathleen, don’t die!!! We need you, Kathleen!!! Kathleen, talk to me!!!
She had not known what to do.  Was it better to call 9-1-1, or to try to do something herself?   There was not one second to lose.  Danielle had been afraid of leaving her sister there to go for the phone, and had tried to remember what she been taught and what she had seen on T.V. about C.P.R.  She had put her mouth against Kathleen’s, and had breathed, and breathed, and breathed, in a desperate attempt to return life back into her sister, whose lips were getting bluer and colder by the second.  Then, crying and shouting, thinking there was nothing else that could be done, she had hugged Kathleen’s wet and lifeless body against her own,
I love you, Kathleen!!!  We can’t live without you!!! Please, come back!!!
Amidst her sobbing, a faint coughing sound had made Danielle look.  Kathleen was responding!!!  She was alive!!!   She was spitting out some water, and the color was slowly returning to her beautiful face.
Kathleen!!!  Kathleen, you’re back!!!  I love you, Kathleen!!!
Danielle had grabbed all the towels she had been able to find, and had put them around her sister’s shoulders. 
Kathleen would continue coughing and spitting out some more water, and then would say something about light and angels from Heaven—but she was still on this earth.  Or--was she back onto this earth?  Feeling more confident that her sister would be all right, at that point Danielle had dared leave her alone for a moment, and run for the telephone, to be back next to Kathleen immediately, while dialing 9-1-1. 
Kathleen would not sustain any physical or psychological damage from that incident.  Danielle would have repeated
nightmares of her sister dying in her arms in the bathtub, and for long time would keep on reliving those terrifying moments in her sleep, and would wake up screaming, crying, and sweating--but that would be all. 
Nobody would ever know what had prompted Danielle to refuse to go to the festival with the rest of her family that Saturday afternoon.  Danielle herself didn’t know.  But, on the other hand, all of them knew.  It had been God’s will that she would save her sister’s life. But the adults knew something else that the children didn’t.  Bob had understood the message very well.  He had understood why.  Had he allowed Danielle to be killed before seeing the light, at that moment, they wouldn’t have that adorable, sensitive, vivacious little girl that they loved with all their hearts—and they would have lost Kathleen as well. Only life could bring about life. Only love could bring about love.  With tears of emotion in her eyes when thinking about all those events, Victoria put her hand once again on that Reader’s Digest story of blessings in disguise.  Thanks to having timely known about her husband’s affair, and thanks to having reacted the way she had, their lives were blessed with four kids, with whom to share the adventures, hopes, and joys of every day. Otherwise, at that time, in their home there would be no more
To Save One Child
than two children, with whom to share relentless pain, tears, memories, and grief.  Had it not been because of Victoria’s immediate concern, on that terrible, humiliating, infuriating day, for that little unborn baby in her rival’s womb, they would have never known their beloved Danielle, and they would have lost their beloved Kathleen as well. Had it not been because of Victoria’s immediate action, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins would also be sharing in their bereavement without end.  Had it not been because of her immediate intervention, her own husband and Brianna would have been overburdened by guilt for the rest of their earthly journeys.  For Bob, the mourning would have been double—for the daughter he would have lost, and for the one to whom he had been about to deny life. Although she would never be able to tell her kids, Victoria knew that their happiness and the happiness of those around them was a reality due to her determination, almost nine years before, to save one child--one child whom they all loved with all their hearts, a saved child who had saved a child in turn.



                              by Lillian GODONE-MARESCA
            For a moment, Bianca felt like transported to a previously unknown territory of deserved achievement and personal accomplishment. She had just finished her emotionally loaded speech on her own experiences as a Caucasian adoptive mother of a beautiful, vivacious, gifted Hispanic girl, and the audience was clapping hands in a standing ovation. 
            With passion and true inner feeling, she had talked about how Alejandra had totally, completely, entirely filled her life, how
almost sixteen years before she had fallen in love with that baby picture from the very moment she had seen those big bright eyes, and how she had known from the very beginning that she was meant to be that little girl’s mom.  Bianca had talked about all the adoption process, all the paperwork involved, the home study, immigration approval, dossier preparation, traveling, the unbearably long waiting time, and all the bureaucracy that she had needed to overcome. she had decided on the name to give to her little one, a name that would sound musical in an English-speaking environment, and that, simultaneously, would preserve her daughter’s cultural heritage. 
            Bianca had talked about the daily wonders of raising Alejandra, about how her whole life had dramatically changed after having her daughter, and about how parenting her had been Bianca’s greatest achievement and deepest joy. 
To Save One Child
A Standing Ovation
            She had also talked about Alejandra’s first words, about Alejandra’s precocious reading skills, about Alejandra’s first day at school, about Alejandra’s gifts for math, science, and arts.  Bianca had talked about her daily eagerness for the clock to tell her it was time to pick up her daughter at school—until she had decided to home school her. She had talked about the infinite joy of being her daughter’s teacher, about how much she had always enjoyed, and still did, driving her to swimming instruction, tennis practice, and piano lessons, working on projects together, trying science experiments, going on field trips, and attending cultural events.  She had talked about how she had managed, with her own mother’s help, to handle her small practice as a C.P.A. from home, having always been able to still be a full-time mom. 
            Bianca had talked to that large audience of adoption professionals, and of prospective as well as experienced adoptive parents, about her closeness to her daughter, and about how, even at that moment, when Alejandra was already sixteen, the two of them remained as close to each other as ever. 
            She had also talked about how, at all times, she had tried to help Alejandra preserve her cultural heritage—at least, to the extent her daughter was cooperative enough.  She had talked about how she had made sure that Alejandra achieved complete fluency in the Spanish language, and about how she had always sought after organizations and cultural events that had enabled her to provide her daughter with not only theoretical information, but also with direct, live contacts with the Hispanic community.   Bianca had talked about her efforts to improve her command of the Spanish language, which had been only working knowledge up to the adoption time.  She had talked about her determination, kept over the years, to attend, at least once a month, Mass in Spanish with Alejandra—even if that had meant, and still did, to drive much farther than their local
Parish, where Masses were celebrated only in English because there was no demand for service in Spanish. 
            Bianca had talked about that initial resolution she had made from the very moment of the adoption, to make Alejandra grow up in contact with those biological roots left behind, when, about fourteen years before, she had boarded a plane back home with her new baby daughter in her arms.   But, in Bianca’s own emotionally loaded words, Alejandra’s country of origin had followed not only her, but the two of them, all the way home.  It had become an integral part of their lives, and she, Bianca, had made sure it would never die inside her daughter’s heart.  She had explained how, when sometimes Alejandra had felt unsure as to whether she actually wanted to relive her biological roots on an almost daily basis, she, as her mother, had always encouraged her daughter not to quit, not to give up her identity for the sake of peer pressure, or sheepish identification with the friends she had from local home schooling groups and extracurricular activities, who were almost all of full European descent.       
      Bianca had referred to how, despite being a lousy cook, she had enrolled in a culinary course in Mexican cuisine, which had been the closest option she had found for Central American dishes.  She had told her audience how she had learned to prepare delicious tacos, enchiladas, burritos, chimichangas, and even stuffed tamales.  She had also mentioned
A Standing Ovation
that many times, no matter her readiness to work miracles in the kitchen, Alejandra had wanted to order to order a pizza from Domino’s, or throw a frozen lasagna into the microwave, or go for a Big Mac or Super Star to McDonald’s or Carl’s Jr.
            Then, Bianca had referred to that time, when Alejandra was about four years of age, at which time she had decided that preserving her own daughter’s cultural heritage was not enough, and that she should get in contact with other adoptive parents, and encourage them to do the same.  She had made it her mission to make sure that adopted children’s cultural roots be kept alive no matter what.  She had become very active in self-help adoption groups and non-profit organizations.  She had even hosted several meetings at her own home.  During all those years, Alejandra had had thousands of opportunities to see how very, very much her mother cared about her, about who she really was.  Alejandra had had numberless chances to appreciate that achieving motherhood through adoption had entirely changed Bianca’s life, and that her life had revolved around the adoption ever since. 
            Bianca’s involvement with adoption groups had grown in frequency and intensity over the years, and had always primarily focused upon the preservation of the adopted child’s cultural roots.
            And Bianca had made her daughter an integral part of her campaign.  Alejandra herself had spoken a couple of times at informal gatherings about her own experiences as a Hispanic adoptee in a non-Hispanic home, and about her carrying a piece of her country of birth deep in her heart.  Bianca was so happy and so thankful that her daughter was able to address those issues so openly, so candidly, so thoroughly, so matter-of-factly.   
            Bianca’s most important motive behind her campaign seemed to have been achieved long ago, as Alejandra appeared to feel as comfortable about her cultural heritage as about the adoption itself.  Of course, there had been times when Alejandra had expressed a desire to do things in the same way they were done at her friends’ homes, or in the same way her friends did them.  But Bianca knew that those moments of discomfort were only natural, due to the normal, expected effects of peer pressure.  There had been that time, when Alejandra was in her second grade, and, as a special project, each student in the class had needed to select one letter of the alphabet, and prepare a book on that letter, including rhymes, pictures, and a collage.  Then, each second-grader would give that book to her pre-selected kindergarten buddy.  Alejandra had been very enthusiastic about the project, as she loved smaller children, and very much enjoyed her weekly half-hour with her little buddy.   Preparing a book for Jenny sounded like an exciting idea!  But, whereas all the other girls had selected common letters for their projects, Alejandra had selected the letter x, and had insisted upon it.  What could be said about that letter?  About the letter a, she could have said she loved animals, playing in the attic, and eating apples.  About the b, she could have said even much more: she could have said she really wanted to have a baby brother, that she loved babies, and that she liked bunnies, birds, Barbie dolls, her bike with training wheels, balls, and balloons.  About the c, she could have said how eagerly she expected Christmas every year, how much the Cross
A Standing Ovation
meant to her, and how much she liked to play with her classmates.   She could have shown a picture of her old crib, which her mother kept as a souvenir in their garage, and could have talked about how very much she loved her cousins, who, by the way, had a very cute, cuddly cat.    Any letter would have been easy—anyone, except the x. 
          What could be said about the x? Why had her daughter selected such a difficult letter for her project?  Bianca had searched high and low for some ideas, and, yet, all that the two of them had been able to come up with had been a picture of Alejandra’s old toy xylophone, and a little poem about it.
           Then, when the project was almost finished, Alejandra had timidly suggested that she could add that the x could mean a variant to her first name.  In her own words, her then eight-year-old daughter had said, I could be called Alexandra, with the letter x.  It sounds so beautiful!  Can we say that in the project, Mom?
           At that time, eight years earlier, Bianca had explained to her daughter that she had, indeed, thought about naming her Alexandra—and, yet, she had changed her mind, because she did not want to betray her daughter’s origin.  The Spanish version of her name had been a way of keeping alive those roots, and Alejandra should never let them die.  And Alejandra had seemed to understand.  And the project had been turned in without any mention of the variant to her daughter’s name.  And the topic had never come up again.
            Yes, Bianca felt proud about the wonderful job she had done in raising such a family-oriented, sensitive, responsible daughter, who, by the way, also appeared to be a happy child.  Alejandra had serious concerns for others, and dreamt about fighting against infant mortality in poor areas of the world due to famine, and against infant killing in the womb in rich ones due to abortion.  Alejandra wanted to become a doctor, and had decided she would make her services available free of charge to undocumented immigrant families without health insurance. 
       After over nine years of steady involvement in her campaign, initially more as an individual initiative, Bianca had been thrilled when she had been invited to be a speaker at an orientation session held by an international adoption agency.  Following that, she had had a few other local speaking engagements. She had made sure that, whenever possible, Alejandra also had a chance to speak. That would start building her daughter’s curriculum vitae.  Then, unexpectedly, three more years down the road, she had received that invitation to speak at an adoption conference of national proportions.  In a down-to-earth manner, without false pretenses, from that very podium about which she was talking, she had candidly disclosed how much that invitation had meant to her.  She had not tried to hide how happy, how proud, and how excited she had been.  She would be speaking to adoption attorneys, adoption workers, and to adoptive parents, whether prospective or experienced.   Needless to say, she had carefully organized her ideas, had timed herself, and had repeatedly rehearsed her intended speech.  But, on the other hand, she had not written down the words she would use, and had not even summarized her paragraphs.  Against everyone’s advice, she would speak in front of her audience without any paper or index cards in
A Standing Ovation
her hand.   She knew very well what she wanted to say, she knew how she felt, and the message she wanted to convey.  She would share her own thoughts and experiences, and she would speak right from the bottom of her heart.
             And that had been exactly what she had just done.  The outcome had been better than expected.  Her entire audience was clapping hands in a standing ovation.  Everyone without exception seemed to be moved by her words, and delighted by her presentation.
             Everyone?  From the stage, Bianca looked for her familiar, beloved faces in the front row.  Her daughter, her mother, her sister, and her eldest niece were there, enthusiastically applauding her.  From her vantage point, Bianca could see the pride in her mother’s eyes, the emotion in her sister’s face, and the enthusiasm in her niece’s smile.  But then, in a brief, disturbing, terrifying moment of truth, Bianca realized what she had failed to notice for so many years.  From the distance, she looked at that pretty, intelligent, articulate teenage face she loved the most in the world, and could see love and loyalty in it—but not the carefree happiness she could notice in everyone else’s.  In that beloved face, Bianca could finally see the sadness, the discomfort, and the pain. Under the lights of the conference room, she could see what she had failed to see, or what perhaps she had refused to see, for more than a whole decade. 
             Her speech had been supposed to be a motivational one.  Had it really been so? Perhaps.  But—to whom had it been addressed?  To other adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents who, like Bianca, needed a sense of mission, and reassurance that they were, or would be, good, loving, understanding, outstanding moms and dads.  Her speech had been addressed also to adoption professionals, who were looking for ways of pushing their careers and increasing their income even farther.  Those adoption professionals tended to like the use of common mottos and stereotyped beliefs about what was, or would be, good for the children they claimed to help, but did not actually know.  Whereas it was true that many of those adoption professionals were adoptive parents themselves, they had never been in their kids’ shoes.  They had never felt the way their kids felt.  Where they really helping those children?  Yes, they were—to the extent they were trying to find loving homes for them.  But then, were they doing those children a service or a disservice by trying to interpret what they wanted and needed in order to feel accepted, happy, self-confident, and loved?   Were those committed, open-minded, supposedly sensitive adoptive parents really helping their adopted kids?  Most importantly of all--was she, Bianca, really helping Alejandra? 
            Standing by the microphone, in just the very brief second between one clapping of  hands and the next, Bianca made sense of that second-grade project for which her daughter had wanted to use the letter x.  Why had she, Bianca, decided her daughter’s name to be Alejandra?   Had Bianca herself been of Hispanic descent, there would have been nothing wrong with the name.  But Bianca was not.  The purpose of a name was to integrate a child to her or his family—not to create a separation, not to open up an abysm between the child and the rest of the family.  Why hadn’t she, as her mother, named her daughter Alexandra, or Alessandra, or Alexandrie, or Alexis, or Alexa, or any other name in her own cultural repertoire?  Why had she,
A Standing Ovation
inadvertently, erected a barrier between her family’s traditions and her daughter’s roots?  Why?
            From the very first day she had learned about her prospective daughter, Bianca had loved that baby girl with all her heart, with all her soul, with all her life, with no hesitation, no doubts, and no reservations.  She simply adored Alejandra, and couldn’t have asked for a better daughter.  Alejandra had filled her days, her goals, her life, and had given her all the happiness in the world. 
            Why, then, had she needed to use Alejandra to materialize her old childhood dreams of becoming one day an activist for the underdog?  As important as those dreams had been, and perhaps still were, they were nothing compared with the big, fulfilling dream of motherhood. 
            Bianca had grown up in a very privileged environment, and, yet, in a home that had taught her to reach out to others.  She had always wanted to help, but—why was she using her own daughter in the process?
            In just another second, Bianca relived those terrible times when she had been struggling with infertility, and putting all her heart, her hopes, and her future in the outcome of the treatment.  Everything had been useless. She remembered that somber day when her doctor had summoned her and her husband to his office, and had asked them to start considering adoption.  Bianca’s chances to conceive were minimal, if any.  She had cried and cried.  She had not wanted to give up.  And, yet, the thought that the doors to motherhood still remained open had comforted her.  Frantically, she had started calling all adoption agencies, all adoption attorneys, and all adoption facilitators that worked with San Diego County.   But soon she had found out that things were not as easy as they seemed.  Time was the most serious challenge.  Matches might take forever. Bianca simply could not wait.  She needed a child right away, a child she could hold forever, first as a little baby in he arms, and always in her heart, and who would never be far from her.  She didn’t mind the cost.  A child was worth using every single resource to the last penny. The problem was that her husband was not equally enthusiastic.  He wanted to be more cautious, to compare fees, to check out references, to read books.  In his opinion, they could just register with County Adoptions, and wait. There would be no fees involved, and their child would arrive in due course—the right child at the right time. 
            Needless to say, that was not enough for Bianca. She wanted to go the private route.  And, yet, no domestic adoption was sure enough. She didn’t want to take any chances that a birthmother might change her mind, an unknown father might unexpectedly show up, or, in an agency adoption, an appeal from a decision terminating parental rights could eventually prosper against all odds.  She wanted to adopt internationally. She wanted that desperately, and could wait no more. She had been advised that she would not be adopting a newborn, but an older infant, or, most likely, a toddler. That did not matter. In a rush her parents had liquidated some investments, and had provided her with the monies she needed.  Why would her husband still object, then?  Why wouldn’t he be happy and grateful?  Why would he give so much trouble to sign agreements, cooperate with paperwork gathering, and participate in
A Standing Ovation
the interview process?   Why would he keep on finding fault with every single legal issue? Why would he keep pointing out every single detail that might go wrong?  Why did he have so many doubts? 
            On the contrary, Bianca’s entire life would be devoted to finding her baby.  The adoption would become for her the invariable topic of every conversation, her prayer, her hope, her dream, her ambition, her goal.  When in the evening, her husband would suggest that they were by themselves, and had all the time for themselves, rather than getting romantic, she would get upset, and even offended.   Why did he need to make such a remark?  Didn’t he know how desperately she wanted, precisely, to have someone else to fill their evenings, a little someone who would cry and soil diapers, and, yet, a little someone who would give them both the greatest joy a couple could have?  Didn’t he know that she did not want to be reminded that they were alone, that she had even arrived to convince herself in her imagination that they might get interrupted any moment by a helpless, compelling crying coming from a crib?  Didn’t he know how desperately she wanted to hear a beloved tiny toddler’s voice calling out for mommy?  Rather than enjoying an intimate dinner on their anniversary, Bianca had kept on repeating how very much she wanted that to be their last quiet anniversary, how terribly she longed for a hectic one the following year, amidst bottles, diapers, mobiles, rattles, baby smiles, and baby tears.   Bianca’s birthday that year had been exactly the same. Rather than being an enjoyable family gathering, it had been only a painful, bitter reminder that time kept on passing by—without a baby.  Christmas had not been much different.  Bianca would stare at every store displaying any “baby’s first Christmas” ornament.  That was all she wanted for their tree!!!   She had kept on imagining, and talking about, where to hide toys until Christmas morning, where to place the tree for it not to tip over, which ornaments might be too breakable with a small child in the home, and how their little son or daughter might try to trick them, and keep awake to see Santa during the night. 
            Whereas her father, then still alive, her mother, and her sister had been entirely sympathetic, and supportive, and had kept on encouraging her, telling her not to lose faith, and dreaming with her, her husband had not been equally understanding.
            And the day had arrived when he had told her he wouldn’t take it any longer.  There was that assistant manager at his office, the one with that melodious, or, in Bianca’s better opinion, provocative, voice, who was able to understand his needs better, to share his interests more vividly, and to please him, and be pleased by him, in a manner he had never experienced with Bianca before. 
            He had claimed to still love her, at least in his own way, and had assured her he might never be able to totally forget about her.  He had told her he would be thankful to her for the rest of his life, and that he would always remember her beauty, her naïve ways, her faithfulness, and her values for as long as he lived—but, in his own words, it was time for him to move on.  He was not ready to keep on mourning about infertility issues, or to put life on hold until able to adopt. 
            Bianca had been devastated.  Her entire world was sinking under her feet.  How would she achieve her dream of being a mother
A Standing Ovation
and a wife?  She wouldn’t look for someone else. As a matter of fact, she did not even want to find anyone else.  She did not want a second husband—but she did desperately want a baby.  Then, only a couple of days thereafter, a new light would flash back into her universe.  Her parents and her sister had been there for her, near her, sharing in her suffering, and had kept on reminding her that still she would be able to adopt as a single applicant.  She had her entire family’s unconditional support.  It might be even easier for her to adopt that way, as she would have nobody to hold her back, nobody demanding her to pretend that she was able to enjoy a candlelight dinner when all she wanted was to have that dinner interrupted by little lungs from a crib.
            Then, despite having thought that then she would be able to devote herself to the adoption process as fully, as completely, as unconditionally as she wanted, she had been faced with another challenge.  Her adoption agency would not be so sympathetic to her excitement and her anxiety, to her motivation and her pain.  Rather than valuing her unshaken, unyielding commitment to motherhood, they had questioned her readiness for it. From their perspective, how could she think about adoption while still being through a divorce?  In their minds, didn’t she need some time on her own to grieve the end of the relationship and find closure to her married life? They had even interpreted her desperation for motherhood as a sign of possible psychological dysfunction or emotional imbalance. They had even questioned the whole family dynamics behind her parents’ and sister’s unconditional support. What were those social workers looking for?  Families who didn’t care so much?  Families who adopted without being fully committed to parenthood?  Was that what children needed?  Was that what children deserved? 
            The matter had been resolved by changing agencies—and paying new fees.  Once again, Bianca had counted on her parents’ help.  Anyway, no matter how desperate she was, she had needed to wait until her divorce was finalized. She had attended a new orientation meeting.  She had gone through the entire interview process again. Which country did she want to adopt from? That did not matter. All she wanted was to be able to hold a little one in her arms, and to know that the adorable bundle of joy would be hers forever.  She always treasured that very first picture she had seen of the tiny girl who would become her daughter.  She would always remember that breath-taking, miraculous moment when she had held that photo in her hand for the first time.  Her heart had started racing, she had started shaking, and tears had come to her eyes.  Was it possible that her dream was a bout to come true?  Would that little one really be hers?  How would she manage to tolerate the waiting time ahead, until she would be able to go, pick her up, and devote her whole life to her?  Now, there was that precious tiny toddler, who had so beautifully unfolded into a gifted, sensitive, family-oriented teenage girl, smiling at her from the front row, with love in her eyes and pride in her smile, and, yet, that pain on her face that Bianca had never noticed before.
            As she glanced one more time across the auditorium, Bianca wandered what had prompted her to become an activist in keeping interracially and/or internationally adopted children as aliens within their new families. Was that stubborn preservation of cultural
A Standing Ovation
heritages a way of fully respecting adoptees, or a way of preventing full integration?  Wasn’t it actually an unconscious way for adoptive parents to feel great about themselves? Did adopted children really want to feel different from their own families? How had she done that to her own daughter, who meant the world to her?  How hadn’t she realized that she was hurting Alejandra by not allowing her to feel that her new family’s traditions and background were hers as well? If her daughter needed to be forced to forever hold on to her past, what was the message conveyed? Very simple: that her adoptive family’s background would never be her own. How had she been so insensitive to Alejandra’s eagerness to feel the same as the other girls, who, typically, didn’t have to deal with adoption issues?  How had she been so frantically involved in her campaign so as to lose sight of the needs and feelings of the one for whose sake she had been claiming to campaign?  How? 
            Bianca’s thoughts quickly went back to her childhood memories of her blonde-haired, blue-eyed, loving parental grandparents, who had been born and raised, one in elegant, devout Rome, and the other, on the beautiful Italian Alps.  She got a glimpse back in time of her maternal grandmother, from the French countryside, whom she still remembered with shiny auburn hair turning white, and soft, warm caramel-colored eyes.  Were they different in any way, shape, or form, from her daughter, who had dark, yet delicate, sensitive skin, silky black hair, and bright, vivacious, sparkling black eyes?  No, they weren’t.  And, from Heaven, they were surely unhappy about the way in which, although inadvertently, she, Bianca, had found differences between them and their great-grandchild.
            The only differences that existed were the ones that she herself had created with her grandiose, bombastic, stupid campaign.
            It was not a matter of forgetting about the child’s country of birth. That country, no matter wherever in the world it might be, would always blend into the adoptive family’s traditions and past—not in an obviously imposed way, but in a much more natural, permanent, deeper one. The child’s country of birth would always become a real part of the adoptive family’s own traditions and past, with no need to be brought up as a differentiating factor all the time. Because it should be deemed a uniting factor, not a differentiating one. Backgrounds merge, the same as they merge in marriage. If due to natural disaster or political turmoil the people in the child’s country of origin suffer from injury and grief, something deep inside the members of the adoptive family bleeds and weeps with them. Yet, what was the need to emphasize that to the extent of making children feel different, less integrated, less strongly belonging into their forever families?
            What Bianca had been doing at home would have been all right—had Alejandra’s background been European, and had hers been Hispanic from Central America. Then, it would have made sense to have tried to assimilate her daughter to her new family’s cultural heritage.  Without denying, or discounting, the child’s own biological roots, what adopted kids wanted, and needed, was to feel fully accepted, fully integrated, fully amalgamated into their permanent, forever families, to find no differences or barriers between them and the other family members.  Bianca suddenly realized her mistake in her selection of words when she had said that her life revolved around having adopted Alejandra.  Shouldn’t she have said simply, plainly, directly, that her life revolved around
A Standing Ovation
Alejandra?  Wasn’t it time to leave the adoption behind, to forget about how her daughter had entered her family, and to focus only on their present family relationships?  After all, was Bianca’s family still new to Alejandra, despite the fact that almost fifteen years had elapsed since the time she had brought her daughter home on that plane?  Didn’t Alejandra have the right to have a family, rather than a new family for years and years on end? 
            Although she was already supposed to leave the podium, Bianca looked one last time at the large audience in front of her.  For a moment, she was tempted to pick up the microphone again, and confess her honest, yet regrettable mistake.  For a moment, she remembered a couple of T.V. programs in which main characters had done exactly that: they had confessed some error or deceit from the same stage from which they had erred, or for the sake of which they had cheated.  They had candidly told the audience that had previously acclaimed them that they had been wrong in their words, or that they had broken the rules in order to win a contest.  And, on T.V., their audiences had been receptive to the new message, and had clapped hands again at it.  But that was on T.V.   In real life, things were different.  Something inside her stopped Bianca from even thinking again about going back to the microphone.  It would have been another publicity stunt that, far from making her daughter feel better, would have certainly humiliated her even more.
            Perhaps, she would write a book to somehow try to counteract the damage that her campaign had caused.  But she would do it under a pseudonym, to protect Alejandra from continuous exposure to the adoption topic, even if she would be dealing with it much better this time.   She would say that adoptive parenthood is no different than biological one.  She would say that, if biological mothers typically don’t spend the rest of their lives talking about the delivery room, why should adoptive ones keep on talking for years and years on end about the adoption process, about the addicted birthmother, about the bureaucracy of the foster care system, about the orphanage in a remote location, miles away?  Why couldn’t adoptive parents treasure their good memories in their hearts, put the moments of frustration and despair behind them, and be just parents, as everyone else?   She would say that culture is mainly determined by where each one of us lives, because, after all, are there any differences in the blood that runs in human veins?  She would say that belonging in a family means forgetting about differences, and focusing upon common goals.  She would say that everyone’s skin tone would be the same in Heaven.   And she would say all that under a pen name, so that no one would keep on talking to Alejandra about adoption.  She had heard enough of it already. 
            After having had her moment of grandeur as well as her moment of truth, and before allowing anyone the chance to ask questions, Bianca finally hurried down the stage steps.  What should she do next?  How would she face Alejandra?  Should she tell her daughter how very much she regretted her error, or would it be better to just change things little by little in a more natural, unspoken, spontaneous manner?  As she sat back next to Alejandra, and after being hugged by her, and after hugging her, as the next speaker went up to the podium, Bianca would simply whisper in Alejandra’s ear that she was hungry for pizza that evening.  All the family would go
A Standing Ovation
together to a cozy, casual dining pizza restaurant, and then, they would all go home, to resume daily activities the next morning. Love in her family was boundless, and that love was obvious and eloquent enough to speak for itself about everything that could be said about the adoption bond.  She knew it was even big enough to heal any wounds that her misguided efforts might have caused. She knew that all she needed was her daughter, a daughter who was her own to the fullest sense of the word. Her whole world revolved around Alejandra, whose happiness was all that Bianca cared about. All that mattered was what best fared the real life test—not what was a more popular opinion, a more widely upheld viewpoint, or more likely to result in a standing ovation.



                 by Lillian GODONE-MARESCA

            Nina glanced around her ballet school, of which she was so very proud.  Her eyes stopped for a moment on an appreciation plaque she had on the wall, acknowledging her school’s invaluable help in raising funds for underprivileged kids.  Then, her lips smiled, as her eyes turned from the plaque to a large black-and-white portrait of her grandmother in an antique gold leaf frame that was the most remarkable feature in her ballet school.  Nina loved ballet with that same strong inner passion she had inherited from her maternal grandmother, who, back in Russia, had arrived to dance in front of the royal family, when almost nearing the end of the times of the last czar. 
Yet, despite that compelling vocation, motherhood had been Nina’s priority call.  She had married young, and she and her husband had been blessed with two sets of twins.  Then, her husband had been diagnosed with cancer, and Nina had fought the battle with him for two years, while raising their four children and looking for a job.  She had been hired by a medium-size law firm as a receptionist, and, with dedication and effort, had worked her way up to legal assistant, and then to office manager seven years later, when the prior manager had resigned her position because of an impending family move out of state.  Nina had never remarried, and had put all
What If Vicky Makes a Mess?
her energies in devoting herself to her four children while working full-time in a very demanding job. 
 Nina’s mother had never been able to dance much, due to a badly healed knee injury she had sustained when she was a little girl, and had placed in Nina her ballet dreams.  Nina had been an only child, and her parents had died in a plane crash when she was a teen.  Although her maternal aunt, who had raised her after that tragedy, had been more than willing to provide her with continuous ballet instruction, for long time Nina had been too depressed, too shattered, too shaken to even keep up with her school work, and had been even less able to continue pursuing her passion for dancing.  It had taken her aunt lots of determination, patience, and love to bring back, even amidst the pain, Nina’s interest in life, school, friends, and, finally, ballet. 
            Yet, even after finally resuming her dance instruction, and after performing a couple of times, she would stop again at different periods, when getting married, during her pregnancies, and to take care of her babies.  Consequently, when her husband had gotten ill and she had needed to become the breadwinner for her family, she still didn’t have enough profile as a ballerina to think about making a living that way.  Still, while raising her children, grieving the loss of her spouse, and working at the law firm, Nina had managed to perform with some amateur groups a few times, and had slowly built her reputation in ballet.  She had impressed everyone with her grace, her elegance, and the heartfelt harmony of each one of her movements, with appeared to be prompted by an inner force.    
Finally, as years had gone by, Nina had been able to get some credibility in the field of dancing, and to save some money to start her own ballet school.  Her twin sons, Nicholas and Peter, were attending a local college while still living at home, and were planning to pursue graduate studies in civil engineering.  Her twin daughters, Anna and Natasha, were in their 11th grade at the local parochial school, and they both had inherited their mother’s passion for Tchaikovsky’s masterpieces, and dreamt about majoring in dancing and becoming ballerinas.  Needless to say, their dream had become Nina’s dream too.
 It had been with that dream in mind that, although hesitant about quitting a steady job, three years before Nina had decided that the time had arrived to open up her own studio. Having her own school would not be just her own dream come true.  It would also allow her to make contacts and launch her daughters’ careers in their great-grandmother’s footsteps.  Nina expected to see her daughters find much easier avenues towards stardom, without all the adverse circumstances that her grand-mother, her mother, and herself had been faced with. Yet, it had not been without guilt that she had borrowed into her 401-K Plan in order to cover part of her start-up costs for her ballet studio.  What if she didn’t succeed?  What if she uselessly spent funds on which she counted in order to secure her children’s graduate education?  But the risk had proved worthwhile.  It was paying off.  She had quickly built a reputation within the local community for her dedication, her high standards, her honesty, and her willingness to tailor her tuition fees to meet the needs of large families and of families with reduced means.  Nina believed that
What If Vicky Makes a Mess?
ballet instruction shouldn’t be a luxury, but part of a well-rounded education that all little girls had the right to have.  Natasha and Anna loved to help after school with their mother’s classes for the youngest kids, and Peter and Nicholas had just finished a college course in accounting, and were doing the bookkeeping for the school.  Although they made a few mistakes, they were saving the costs of having a hired professional do the job. 
            And Nina’s expectations had been surpassed when her school had been asked to perform for a large fundraising event.  The proceeds would go to benefit children in the foster care system, families with children in crime-ridden neighborhoods, and other at-risk situations.  It was a worthy cause, and Nina was very happy to be able to help, and also (why to deny it?) it would offer her an excellent opportunity for greater exposure within local private schools, the local school district, and the home schooling community.
            From the very moment she had learned about that recital, Nina had felt confident that her students would do a good job on stage—except for Vicky.  Actually, Vicky was the most enthusiastic, the most committed, the most avid student she had—even more dedicated than Nina’s own daughters, no matter how much the two of them loved ballet. Vicky wouldn’t miss one single lesson.  If occasionally sick, she would attend a make-up class.  She would put all her concentration every time Nina showed her students a new movement. Yet, despite how very hard she tried, Vicky would turn the wrong way, do the wrong movement, lose her balance, go too slowly or too fast, or would even end up clashing onto another girl.  Once, when trying something new, one of her ballet slippers had fallen off her foot, and had flown across the studio, to be stopped by Nina’s legs. Another time, she had lifted her arms at the wrong time, and had hit another student’s face.  More than once, Vicky would end up as long as she was on the floor, red in her face due to the humiliation, and, yet, ready to get up, continue practicing, and try again.  Vicky would not smile during her ballet lessons.  She was not doing it just for fun.  Despite her poor coordination, she truly loved ballet, perhaps with very much the same inner, forceful passion that Nina’s grandmother had loved it almost one century before.  How would Vicky feel if not given a part in the recital?  How would that affect not only her commitment to dancing, but also her entire outlook at life, her self-image and self-esteem?
Besides, what about Vicky’s mother, whose emotional investment in her daughter’s ballet lessons was as big as Vicky’s—if not bigger?  How could she, Nina, a devoted mother of four, disappoint another mother so very much?  But, on the other hand--what about her school?  What about the dreams she, Nina, had for Anna and Natasha?  For a moment, Nina had tried to find in her own daughters some more valid justification to leave Vicky out of the recital, even if feeling pain at even the thought of it.  She had tried to tell herself that she needed to build her school’s credibility not because of her own professional pride, not because of her own financial interests, but for the sake of her daughters’ future.  Nina’s dream was to see Natasha and Anna become famous, respected ballerinas, without revolutions, leg injuries, plane crashes, or premature widowhood.  A big, reputable school would certainly help
What If Vicky Makes a Mess?
launch her daughters’ careers on stage.  But then, her thoughts had gone back to Vicky and her mother, to their feelings, to their efforts, to their hopes and their dreams.  That mother-daughter duo was perhaps putting into her ballet school even more than she and her own daughters were putting into it.  In addition, what was the purpose of that recital?  To help children in need. Could she, in good conscience, publicly embrace a noble cause, and then, in the privacy of her studio, destroy a student’s self-image and shatter a mother’s dreams? 
Nina had called her Parish office, and had made an appointment to speak with Father Velazquez.  She had always enjoyed his homilies, loaded with present-day applications to controversial issues, his strong stand in defense of the defenseless, whether babies in the womb or immigrants with no status, and his readiness to immediately meet with any parishioner in need of advice, comfort, or reassurance at any time of day, and on any day of the week.
After telling Father Velazquez her dilemma about Vicky, the priest had asked her,
I’m sure you want to help with that fundraiser not only to promote your own school, but to help those children in need.   Correct?
Of course, Father.  Those kids need help, Nina had replied.  But then, her pastor’s next question had surprised her,
Why do you want to help those kids?  How do you think they feel?
Nina had not quite understood where that new question was aiming at.
Most likely they feel very badly--but I don’t get the point of your question, Father.
How do you think Vicky would feel if told she could not take part in that recital?  Wouldn’t she feel very badly as well?
She would be devastated.  It’d be terrible for her, and also for her mother, Nina had replied, understanding what the priest was trying to have her say.
That answers your question, Nina. That’s exactly what you yourself told me a moment ago.  You yourself said that you cannot help children while hurting another child in the process.  The benefit to one thousand kids cannot make up for the damage that a rejection would have on that one little girl.
Nina had thanked Father Velazquez, and had felt strengthened in her confidence that everything would be all right—even with Vicky on stage.  On her way to the door, she had timidly asked the priest if there was anything he could think about to try to avoid a catastrophe on the day of the performance.
Yes, Father Velazquez had answered, it sounds like Vicky might use some extra practice and some extra prayers.   With a smile, he had added, I promise I will pray for that fundraiser also—and for Vicky not to make a mess on stage.  And I intend to be there myself.  There are four people I want to be able to congratulate after that performance: you, your daughters, and Vicky.  
And, per Father Velazquez’ anticipation, the recital had, in fact, been a total success.  After practicing, and practicing, and
What If Vicky Makes a Mess?
practicing, Vicky’s slight hesitation before each new movement had arrived to be almost unnoticeable to the audience.  The fundraising goals had been met and even exceeded--and Vicky’s expectations for her school had been surpassed too, as enrollment had almost doubled in less than two months thereafter.  Natasha and Anna were getting even more into ballet, and it was obvious that it wouldn’t be too difficult for their careers soon to take flight.  Even Vicky had ended up being much less clumsy after that recital, as the stage had boosted her faltering self-esteem.
After performing, Vicky had approached her with a small golden and red gift bag in her hand.
Mrs. Danoff-Martin, thank you for trusting me.  It meant a lot to me, Vicky had said, while handing out the little gift bag to her.
It meant a lot to both of us, Vicky’s mother had added.  God bless you, Nina!
I don’t know what to say, Nina had replied while pulling a very cute refrigerator magnet out of that small gift bag.   I am the one who should thank the two of you for your efforts and your support—and Vicky was so wonderful on stage!
At that very moment, a voice that Nina knew very well had exclaimed from the back, Oh, this is one of the two girls in blue!  You certainly did so very well!
It had been Father Velazquez.  As he had promised, there he was, having just congratulated Anna and Natasha, and congratulating Vicky.
Is that really true?  Thank you, Father!  Vicky’s eyes were shining with emotion, pride, happiness, and tears.
Of course it’s true!  Father Velazquez had replied.   A priest is supposed to be truthful, isn’t he?   Everyone had smiled.  Everything had turned out perfectly well beyond expectation.  Nina would never forget that magical evening, hugging her daughters while watching Vicky’s ecstatic face, and listening to Father Velazquez’ kind words.  Her sons were approaching at that very moment, waiting for their chance to hug their mom and sisters as well.  Even the air had seemed different, warmer, more welcoming, with the aroma of freshly baked brownies inviting all of them to approach the refreshments table. 
And you did a marvelous job putting all this together, Nina, Father Velazquez had added.  God bless you!   His smile had been eloquent enough: he had been able to congratulate the four of them as he had promised.  Nina knew that God had been present at all times, watching over every detail for the success of that memorable event.  
For a moment, standing in the waiting room of her studio, Nina raised her eyes up to Heaven, and thought about her grandmother, who had been her most forceful inspiration in her passion for ballet.  She thought about her parents, who had loved her with all their hearts, who had placed in her all their dreams, and whom she still missed so very much.  She thought about her husband, about that last kiss before his departure to be with God.  And she knew she had made them all proud.  She knew she had done what they were expecting her to do. She knew she had done what her grandmother would have done without hesitation, even at the peak moment of her glorious yet brief pre-revolution ballet days. 
What If Vicky Makes a Mess?
Nina knew her grandmother also would have put Vicky on stage, that she would have taken the big chance for the sake of one girl’s confidence in herself.  She knew she had made the only decision that in good conscience she could have made, even in the face of a four-generation dream.  Besides, no matter her coordination problems, Vicky had responded very positively to the opportunity she had been given, and to the trust placed in her. Despite Nina’s justifiable fears, with efforts and prayers, Vicky had not made any mess.




                        by Lillian Godone-Maresca

          Without embellishment, I can say that in my childhood I received the most perfect upbringing imaginable: on one side, I was taught all the etiquette rules, and was given everything I wanted and even more, but, on the other, I was even more strongly taught, by word and by example, that a humble attitude and reaching out to others are far more important than socio-economic status and social profile.
            Things having changed dramatically from a financial standpoint for the worse, our family can no longer make the sizable charitable contributions for which it used to be well-known in the past.  All we can donate nowadays to help those less fortunate is our time and efforts, and we enjoy doing that together as a family.
            Yet, despite those community service endeavors, and against the teachings received in my childhood from my parents and grandparents, I must admit to have found myself paying too much attention to our family background, to the credit that belonged to earlier generations and not to me, to the fading glory of a much more illustrious past.  I could not avoid treasuring the knowledge that our ancestors had never served others, but had been served by others, that in the old days nobody had done any domestic chores, that nobody had ever worked with his or her hands.  Without being mean to anyone, still in my heart I was betraying those teachings I had received in my childhood, which had emphasize humility and seeing Jesus in the homeless and the hungry..
            When our family’s financial situation had taken a sharp turn for the worse, far from re-processing those feelings, I desperately tried to hold on to those more illustrious times long gone.  When my daughter, Catherine, wanted to start working while already in college at the age of 17, and even though, to tell the truth, the family needed some additional income, I made it very clear to her that I wouldn’t let her apply to any restaurant, whether fast food or formal dining.  In plain words, I didn’t want her to serve anyone.  I felt greatly relieved when she was almost immediately hired at a gift shop at the local mall.  That sounded much better, and she would stop insisting that she did want to apply to McDonald’s, like most kids her age.  
            Then, one day, it came to me as a sudden, powerful, striking realization, as we were all volunteering at a homeless shelter downtown San Diego..  I had always enjoyed seeing my three kids serve the homeless, passing around their meals, as well as clearing up their dirty trays and mopping the floors after dinner was over.  I had always enjoyed seeing them groom horses for T.E.R.I., an equestrian therapy program for the physically and mentally challenged.  I had always enjoyed seeing them pull out weeds, paint out graffiti, fill and carry bags and boxes for the needy, and remove nails for lumber to be shipped to Tijuana for the expansion of an orphanage.  I myself had also served, cleaned, hammered, bent, and knelt, to get volunteer commitments done for the sake of others.  We all had worked with our hands, we had gotten them dirty.  We all
The King Who Washed Feet
had perspired, and had stained our clothes.  What was the difference, then?  Why should I feel to be one step above those who did those jobs to bring food to their family tables?  Was there any sense in my stupid pride?
            That day, during Lent in 2006, as we were welcoming a line of homeless individuals and families at that shelter, for a second I could see Jesus in front of my eyes, without his cloak, and with a towel tied around his waist, washing those people’s feet.  It was no more than a second, and the image was gone.  Yet, it was enough for me to finally understand what my family had always taught me since my childhood, what my mother and my own kids had been trying to make me accept in my grown-up years, what deep inside my heart I had always known: that no honest job is more dignified than others, that nobody should hold himself or herself up to be better than others, that “if anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9;35).  After all, the King of kings had welcomed the lowly and the outcast, had shared his table with sinners, had reached out to the derelict and the destitute, and had bent over and washed his disciples’ feet.   



                                by Lillian GODONE-MARESCA

            There is always a purpose in every fact in, and facet of, our lives.  Sometimes we may not immediately understand that ultimate reason, but, if willing to listen carefully and wait a little, such reason is sure to shine through at one time or another, and to make up for whatever used to upset us or hurt our feelings in the past.
In my case, I want to talk about a big, huge, and, in all likelihood, oversized, monster that did cast an equally oversized shadow in which otherwise would have been a perfect, dreamlike, fairytale childhood. I grew up with the triple benefits of total, complete, entire, absolute, unconditional devotion from my parents and grandparents, of a very privileged upbringing, and, yet, of a home environment in which social sensitivity and social justice always took precedence over socio-economic status and social profile.  I was a straight-A student, outgoing, and, according to everyone, also pretty.  But, amidst all those blessings, there was that monster that did have a tremendous impact upon my self-image and even upon my whole outlook at life.
Most children’s monsters lurk in the dark, when at bedtime everything becomes silent and dismal. They are likely to jump out of clattered closets where towers of different toys not very well piled up may fall down with a clash any moment.  Or they may show up
A Monster Made Out Of Wood and Steel
in poorly lit room corners, where shadows tend to play tricks, as an older sibling or grown-up family member walks in the hallway.  Most children’s monsters wake them up during the night, with creepy noises as a mouse scampers in the attic, right above their heads, or when, in a den or foyer below, the family dog gets thirsty and walks across the room to the water bowl near the opposite wall.  Most children’s monsters appear to be scarier when days become shorter in the fall, and when temperatures drop to freezing cold in the middle of winter.  Most children’s monsters are much more likely to attack after a big sister or brother has just finished reading them a Halloween story right before bedtime, or after they themselves have been sneaking for a moment into the family room to watch a few scenes of that movie that mom and dad had said would bring them bad dreams.
My monster was entirely different.  It used to haunt me in plain daylight, in sunny mornings or warm early afternoons, when the sun shone high on a blue sky, and happy, carefree voices could be heard all around. It used to attack amidst birds, flowers, and butterflies.  It would attack me in front of a bunch of other kids, with my mom attentively watching over me, and several other mothers also nearby.
It was a tall, big, gigantic, multi-legged monster, with a strange shape and no head.  Actually, I never counted how many legs or arms it had, as its metal bars would extend everywhere, both vertically and horizontally, and even sideways. 
My monster looked well-taken care of, colorful, and friendly—occasionally, even inviting.  It looked so very harmless and appealing that I would even approach it, and climb on it—but then, that was when it used to become tricky, terrifying, menacing, horrible.  Once I was at the very top, the monster would do anything to try to make me lose my grip, lose my balance, and fall flat on the sawdust below.  If I tried to defy it and keep on climbing, it would make it increasingly difficult for me to hold on, until forcing me to give up. That was my monster’s favorite secret revenge: if I tried to remain on it, it would manage to make me feel less and less steady by the minute. And, if I didn’t want to stay on it, it would make sure I didn’t find it easy to get down.  Worst of all, there were other kids all around, and many of them would smile and even laugh upon realization of how very difficult the monster was making things for me.  Why was the monster so mean to one child, if others seemed to handle it so well?  Why was I the only one who had a hard time on it?  Why?
     As everyone may have guessed by now, my monster was a climbing gym. And it was not just one, but there were many of them. There were similar monsters at the parochial school I attended, at the private club to which my family belonged, at the local park, and even at the local zoo. That was why I always loved amusement parks.  There I didn’t need to fight any monster. There I could show how very brave I was, because all I had to do was to get on any ride, and the rest would be done for me.
 Despite a very athletically looking appearance, only betrayed by my very pale complexion, I was not good at outdoor activities or sports.  It was just a matter of poor coordination as opposed to an actual disability, but I did perceive it as a terrible,
A Monster Made Out Of Wood and Steel
impairing, immobilizing handicap, which adversely impacted by self-confidence, and made me regard my good grades as evidence of a nerdish disposition.  I knew I was outgoing and decisive, with interests that were always much more geared towards practical applications than theoretical concepts, but still ended up thinking of myself as a book worm and being ashamed of my academic success.
Besides, after all, I was able to run, climb, and jump. Simply, I was not too skilful on the playground or the gym.  My own feelings of inadequacy resulted in a strong inner connection to anyone suffering from a real physical challenge.  How did children with an actual disability feel, if unable to do those things at all?  How did they feel, if even unable to walk?
Years went by, and those days when kids constantly compare who can jump higher or run faster were soon gone.  Yet, the adverse impact they had had upon my self-esteem was not gone with them.  Even after achieving my most cherished dream, after giving birth to three wonderful children who mean the world to me, I still found myself somehow stuck upon those childhood memories of the big bad monster that I had been unable to tame.  I found those memories impinging upon my professional performance and self-worth. 
As a grown-up, in trying to conquer those feelings, I found the way to be some sort of a daredevil with no need for better coordination.  Capitalizing upon my early love for amusement parks, I rode every roller coaster in the area, and, beyond that, bungee jumped more than once, and even sky dived once, although, in honor to truth, it was only a tandem jump, harnessed to my instructor.  Yet, after a brief initial feeling of pride and accomplishment, psychological results were only partial.  Despite being a mother of three already, and despite loving my kids with all my soul, with all my heart, with all my life, still deep inside I could never do away with that feeling of inadequacy that went back to those days of that big monster made out of wood and steel.
When my husband died prematurely in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, our shared dream of a large family with lots of kids remained alive, and became simultaneously a goal to help us look ahead, and an emotional refuge where to bury our pain and draw strength.  We all wanted that dream of a big, busy, hectically happy family to come true.  The adoption avenue seemed so very promising!  My three biological kids were enthusiastic beyond words at the idea, and could not wait to have some new little sisters or brothers.  My mom entirely supported the adoption plans in every respect, and prayed day and night for that shared wish to become a reality soon. 
Then, one evening, I was able to see much more in the Gospel passage about the temptations (Matthew 4: 1-11) than its well-known application to human carnal desires for power, pleasure, and prestige. For a second, I had the feeling I could see Jesus standing on top of a high wall. The fact that He had not thrown Himself down from the parapet of the temple was a clear condemnation of useless, purposeless risks.  Did I need to keep on bungee jumping once a year every year so as to prove myself brave?  What good did it do to anyone?  On the contrary, from the very beginning there had been a reason why I had not been able to jump higher or catch a ball on time.  A crucial part of my mission on this
A Monster Made Out Of Wood and Steel
earth was to adopt children facing physical challenges. No, I had not discovered that at that moment for the very first time. That call had been pulling at my heartstrings harder and harder for a very long time. What I had just suddenly realized was that from the very beginning my poor coordination had had a purpose in God’s loving plans. Without it, perhaps I would not have felt that call with such great power and force—although I’m sure that, had I not felt that call on my own, my three biological kids would have made sure I felt it all the same. Special needs adoption was not just my personal call, but a shared family call—a shared dream and a shared prayer. I was emotionally and professionally equipped to understand physically challenged children’s feelings, struggles, strengths, ups and downs.  I could count with selfless, total, absolute, unconditional, support from my mom and my three kids. Actually, it was more than support—because my dream was their dream to. I knew that from above, next to God, my dad and my grandma were praying for that dream to come true. At all times, God had been there, taking good care of every single detail. For the first time, I had found a reason for my childhood monster—or, actually, the reasons would be more than one--because the little huge blessings to join our home would be more than one too.


                                                                                                by Lillian Godone-Maresca

                Perhaps some of you already heard about Father John Lasseigne, who, borrowing from the Associated Press article dated Aug. 6, 2009, by Christina Hoag, besides “saving souls” is making it his mission to “save homes”. His Parish of Mary Immaculate is in Pacoima, a low-income area in San Fernando Valley that was one of the neighborhoods hardest hit  by the foreclosure crisis.  Fr. Lasseigne, who had graduated from law school, rightfully claims that “works for social justice are an integral part of the priesthood”. He personally listens to the distressed homeowners, meets with the lenders--and gets the job done!!! Yes, he does stop many foreclosures, and has been called “the foreclosure fighting father”.
            I know that none of you lives in Pacoima, but the main reason why I’m posting this is because those like Fr. Lasseigne are the ones who show to the world the true spirit of the Catholic Church. Quite often our enemies try to portray us as ultra-conservative and rigid. Quite often they view our support of the traditional marriage between of a man and a woman as inability to understand those who have so-called alternative lifestyles. Quite often they ignore that what we oppose is not universal healthcare, but the presentation of murder, whether in the form of abortion or euthanasia, as a valid healthcare practice.
            Sadly, we, as Catholics, many times don’t even make the effort to clear our pristine name as members of the universal Church. Many times we let libel and slander make the Catholic Church bleed—because every time that one of our fellow Catholics leaves the congregation due to those lies, it is the whole Church that bleeds in the Blood of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Himself that bleeds over and over again for each one of us who goes astray with the totally erroneous idea that the Catholic Church was not open enough, non-judgmental enough, or understanding enough.
            Many times we keep silent instead of going forward and reminding the world that, since the old days of the courageous martyrs who died to defend Christianity, most of the Catholic saints were canonized because their lives were devoted to the poor, the sick, the immigrant, the oppressed, the underdog. Putting together a list would be too big of a task to even try. I’ll only mention St. Francis of Assisi, St. Claire, St. Vincent De Paul, St. John Bosco, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Damien of Molokai, Blessed Mother Teresa, and Blessed John Paul the Great,among countless many others.
            What made Dorothy Day become a Catholic? It was her realization that “Roman Catholic churches were one place where the poor, especially immigrants, were welcomed and cared for with God’s love.” (from an internet article). As the co-founder of The Catholic Worker movement, Dorothy Day coined the famous phrase that describes our Church as “the church of the poor”.
            Are we going to surrender such honorable legacy and allow our enemies to bad-mouth us as narrow-minded hypocrites, enclosed in our own bubbles, engulfed in our own grandeur, and unmindful of others from all walks of life? Of course not!!! Actually, the detractors of the Catholic Church have absolutely no right to even talk about social sensitivity, equality, social justice, or democracy because they murder the potentially challenged or unplanned low-income infants in the womb, deny life-saving treatment to the severely disabled, and take away people’s freedom to mention God’s Name in public. Rather than being so ‘progressive’ as they claim to be, the enemies of the Catholic Church think it all right for a woman to cowardly bow to societal pressures and kill the baby in her womb instead of facing the world with a bulging tummy without a wedding ring.
            On the contrary, we stand up for the unborn baby and the unwed mother, for the physically and mentally disabled, for the undocumented alien, for the unsuspecting consumer being tricked and foreclosed upon by unscrupulous lenders, for the rejected, the marginalized, the neglected, the abandoned, the stigmatized, the ostracized, the voiceless, the forgotten, the unemployed, the underemployed, the exploited, the homeless, the defenseless, the hopeless, and the hopeful.
            That’s why, in the light of the Catholic Social Teaching, I can proudly announce that my family and I are Pro-Life, pro-family, and pro-amnesty. Traditional moral values do not mean an ultra-conservative political stand. On the contrary, traditional moral values go hand-in-hand with equality, social sensitivity, and social justice.
            Those who agree with Obama as well as those who disagree with his ideas tend to perceive him as someone oriented towards social issues. How many know that it is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that is trying to influence the Obama administration in favor of a comprehensive immigration reform?
            I will transcribe a couple of pertinent paragraphs from the Statement of His Eminence Cardinal Francis George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the United States of Catholic Bishops. Said Statement, dated June 18, 2009, in its pertinent part reads as follows:
“On behalf of the United States Catholic Bishops, gathered in San Antonio, Texas, at our annual spring meetings, I would like to ask President Barack Obama and congressional leaders of both parties to work together to fashion and enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation before the end of the year. (. . .) Now is the time to address this pressing humanitarian issue which affects so many lives and undermines basic human dignity. Our society should no longer tolerate a status quo that perpetuates a permanent underclass of persons and benefits from their labor without giving them legal protections. As a moral matter, we must resolve the legal status of those who are here without proper documentation so that they can fully contribute their talents to our nation’s economic, social, and spiritual well-being.”
            Consistently, the Most Rev. Thomas Wenski, Bishop of Orlando, proclaims as follows: “The so-called ‘illegals’ are so not because they wish to defy the law; but, because the law does not provide them with any channels to regularize their status in our country—which needs their labor: they are not breaking the law—the law is breaking them.”  
            The Catholic Church has a firm stance in the protection of immigrants, including those with no papers yet. In his homily a few weeks ago during daily Mass on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a priest who was taking over and whose name I couldn’t get urged the congregation to pray for all those marginalized legal and illegal immigrants who suffer from discrimination and exploitation, for them to find ways to adjust status and find peace and prosperity in their new land.
            As Catholics, we do believe in the dogma of our faith. Also as Catholics we should always follow in the footsteps of so many saints and martyrs who gave their lives for the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed. As Catholics we should know that our Church has never been shy, hesitant, or scared to welcome with open arms those in need of help and support.


Lenten Reflections from the Scriptures

            Lent is a time when we are supposed to reflect more profoundly upon Jesus’ endless love for us, about His horrendous death for our redemption, about what He expects from us—not for Himself, but for each other’s sake, as He comes to us in the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, the immigrant, the abandoned, the stigmatized, the sick, the homeless.

            These brief reflections are not intended to be deep theological comments, but simply some practical applications of Lenten Gospel readings to our daily lives.  No matter what our situation, dilemma, concern, or endeavor may be, we can always look for answers in the Bible—and we can be sure that the reply, the solution, the comfort, the idea we needed will be there.

            One beautiful, well-known passage is from Matthew 6;2-4, which we have heard on Ash Wednesday, when Jesus says,

            “When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

Far from living in a totally careless society, as the media sometimes portrays it, most people these days are involved in charity in one way or another, whether as sponsors or as volunteers—or both.  Most of us truly enjoy devoting our time to community service, and those of us who are parents tend to beam with happiness when our children cherish every opportunity to help others.  I will not deny the internal satisfaction of pursuing my kids with the camera every time they serve those less fortunate.  And, beyond the photo albums, I derive even more pride in enlarging, framing, and hanging my favorite pictures showing them in different volunteer activities.  And my pride is even greater when, from time to time, some of those pictures, with my kids on them, reach a local newspaper.     Besides the common appreciation certificates and community service awards, sponsors are frequently offered plaques displaying, at least within a certain range, the size of the donation made.  In effect, sponsors are given different names depending upon the magnitude of their gift. 

            Whereas there is nothing wrong in the natural pride of having done something good, or in the expectation of some recognition, we tend to overdo it.  When taking pictures, are we careful not to invade the privacy of the recipients?  Do we really treat them as our equals?  There is nothing wrong in feeling the internal pleasure of having done something for someone in need,  in taking some discreet pictures of one’s own children while volunteering, in including community service as part of one’s resume, or in honoring those who have given beyond expectation.  But frequently we go over the limits.  One “thing” is to wear a T-shirt showing our participation in a walk or other fundraising event, and another one is to go around with a pin saying in full words that we have helped someone (e.g., a sick child)—and I can assure you that I have seen companies offering those pins to contributors.

            Shouldn’t we remember that charity is an act of love, as opposed to an elegant, upscale way of satisfying our own ego?   Perhaps we should read St. Matthew’s Gospel a little more often.

            Another extremely important Lenten Gospel reading is the one, during the first Sunday of Lent, about the devil trying to tempt Jesus, and Jesus’ replies with quotations from the Old Testament. As Fr. Jim Rafferty pointed out in his homily in 2006, this reading from Mathew 4; 1-11 clearly shows, like numberless others, the close inter-relationship between the Old and the New Testaments.   He also reminded us that the three different temptations are about humans’ main weaknesses, namely for the carnal, or mundane pleasures, for prestige, and for money and power.  Jesus resists temptation, and shows us how we should resist temptation as well.

            But I will only emphasize what, to me, is the most forceful condemnation of foolish risks.  My mother has always been, and is, very intent in highlighting that, notwithstanding his very athletic nature, John Paul II was openly against violent and dangerous sports. 

            I will not deny that thrills have a particular attraction to me.  I think I rode all roller coasters geographically available, I bungee jumped five times, and even sky dived once—although it was a tandem jump, in which I was harnessed to the instructor.  Yet, I find in the second temptation, or, actually, in Jesus’ reply thereto, the strongest condemnation of unnecessary risks.  In effect, the devil took Jesus to a temple, and made Him stand on a high parapet, and challenged Him to throw Himself down, counting that God would send His angels to hold and protect Him.  Jesus replied, “Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” (Matthew 4;7).

            This is something of which all young people should be reminded of before participating in any activity with the peer group.  How many times one classmate, playmate, or teammate dares another do something unnecessarily risky, or laughs at someone who, due to lesser practice or lesser ability, is unwilling to try a certain activity or stunt?  How many times the whole group makes fun of a boy or girl who lacks the necessary training, skill, or, simply, desire, to climb on, jump from, or jump over something? 

            Should that child risk breaking his or her head only to please so-called “friends” who do not seem to care about his or her safety, feelings, and self-esteem?  Shouldn’t that child remember that nobody is supposed to put God to the test?  Let’s think about it for a moment.  We know that God’s tender loving care for all and each one of us humans is unlimited, and that He can, and does, listen to absolutely all requests for protection that He may receive every second.  Yet, isn’t it to be a little too arrogant to expect God to protect us while doing something that we simply want to do in order to please a member of the peer group?  We should rather let God protect all those who confront danger for the sake of another, as when saving someone, or who find themselves confronted by it through no fault of their own, or due to some often unavoidable degree of negligence, such as if someone forgot to lock the door, and a burglar came in.   Even though no request from any of us is annoying to God, we shouldn’t “overburden” Him with claims for protection for an activity that we can avoid altogether.  Moreover, by doing what some group members are trying to make us do, will we be really pleasing them?  Will they really be happy for us if we do it?  Surely not.  All they are looking for is some fun—and nobody should put himself or herself in a position of being a source of amusement for someone else.

            Nowadays, sports store executives, coaches, and peers appear to expect more and more—and even more from each of us.  It looks like there is no limit to new roller coaster designs, skate park features, extreme sports ideas, and increasingly fancier gymnastic stunts.   And not everybody can keep up with the pace.  Is it worthwhile getting hurt, or even dying, uselessly, or should we think that there are lots and lots of other things we are still supposed to do during our journey on earth?  Do we really want to shorten that journey, or do we want to be able to see some more dreams come true?

            Jesus had the infinite courage and infinite love of going through unimaginable suffering when He died for us on the Cross—but He did it for a reason.  Yet, He did not throw Himself down the temple’s wall to please Satan.  
            When feeling that we must do something risky, even though our heart is racing, our hands are sweaty, and our stomach is crawling with butterflies, we should stop for a second, and think:  Should Jesus have thrown Himself down the parapet of the temple?
            Another key passage, of total application to our times, is the reading from John 4;5-42, on the third Sunday of Lent.   In those times, Jews used to consider Samaritan women as ritually impure, and were forbidden to drink from any cup that had been handled by any of them.  Yet, defying the unfair societal laws of His days, Jesus approaches a Samaritan woman, and asks her for a drink—something that was in violation of the norms.   The woman herself was surprised, and asked Jesus, “ ‘How can You, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?’ – For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.”    

            Besides being the passage that institutionalizes Jesus’ ministry to the Gentiles, this passage is a key one that shows His condemnation of racism and discrimination in any way, shape, or form. 

            Nowadays, it seems there are no those problems any longer.  Nobody would openly question the societal propriety of equality—but still people keep on making hurtful comments about appearances, backgrounds, accents, disability, and occupational status.  Still the boss is introduced with his or her first and last name, and the secretary only by her (or, eventually, his) first name.  Still many citizens do not allow foreigners to assimilate.  They don’t do that openly, but in subtle, insidious ways, while even daring to claim that they’re protecting the foreigners.  They do that by still adhering to obsolete stereotypes, as if everyone from a certain nationality necessarily had to like a certain kind of food, or enjoy a certain kind of music.  They do that by tuning their ears to be ready to perceive the slightest foreign or even regional accent.  Amongst children and teenagers, it appears to be regarded as socially incorrect to be a new or less popular student--because all that seems to matter is to be part of the “cool” group.   Is that really cool?  Wouldn’t cruel be a better word?   Would it be even cooler to have the courage of defying those obsolete rules, and doing what Jesus expects us to do? 

            The last point I want to make relates to that one, and is from the very account of the Passion, which we will hear on Palm Sunday (Mark 14; 1-15; 47).  I will not address the excruciating pain Jesus underwent for us, as he got beaten up, crowned with thorns, forced to carry His own cross, had His hands and feet pierced by nails, and was crucified.  We all know how infinitely He loved us—and how infinitely He loves each one of us every day of our lives.  
            All I want to address is the fact that the multitudes had shouted against Him, had claimed for Him to be crucified.  They had witnessed His miracles, and had marveled at them.  They had been thankful to Him for His mercy.  They knew He had resurrected the dead, had given sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and had made the paralytic walk.  Yet, at one point, they were all against Him.  That should help us question the validity of popularity, peer acceptance, or a positive media image, as measures of our own worth.  Do we need others to like us, to give us their approval, for us to know what our worth is?  Is the most popular classmate the best, the kindest, the nicest one?  Haven’t you noticed that those who are not among the popular crowd are more likely to have not only better spiritual and moral qualities, but also perhaps better skills than those who somehow manage to call themselves popular, or cool?  

            How many saints also have been ridiculed, vilified, defamed, tortured, and killed by their contemporaries?  Needless to say, it is all right, and only human, to want others to like us, and to be happy when they do.  The important “thing” is never to do anything we don’t want to do only in order to get someone’s approval, and never to base our self-image on club or team membership, popularity, or, worst of all, on an inappropriate, unkind, nasty comment that someone at some point might have made.   


                                    WHAT BEING CATHOLIC REALLY MEANS
                                                                                 by Lillian Godone-Maresca

            Being Catholic is seeing Jesus in the homeless and the hungry. Being Catholic is welcoming the foreigner and the immigrant without paying attention to which kind of clothes they use, which language they speak, or how their physical appearance is. Being Catholic is about the National Conference of Catholic Bishops exhorting the government to find ways of regularizing the status of undocumented aliens. Being Catholic is seeing in the lives of the saints inspiring examples of          faith blooming into works of charity, of equality and social justice in action, of humility, selflessness, and reaching out.

            Being Catholic is not getting upset but, on the contrary, smiling when a child’s cry disrupts the Mass at one of the most solemn times. Being Catholic is being ready to take a chance in order to help others. Being Catholic is not going with the flow and voicing one’s disagreement when classmates or co-workers seem to find it funny to laugh at someone who is not so quick, not so athletic, not so clever, or simply at someone who is just new to the school or the workplace.

            Being Catholic is standing up for the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, with no exceptions and no reservations. Being Catholic is understanding the Hippocratic Oath as a commitment to protect life with no room for any partnerships with death.

            Being Catholic means families pulling together no matter the age of their members. It means sisters and brothers keeping close to each other throughout their lives. It means that whenever possible, and unless specialized medical care is needed, looking after any disabled or elder family members should be a task for family not to delegate into group homes or nursing facilities.

            Being Catholic means that we should set the example—not only because of having upright family lives, but also because of being always ready and willing to get out of our way and go one extra mile in order to make someone’s life better. What did the Good Samaritan do? It was not only a matter of curing and bandaging the injuries of the man who had been attacked by the robbers. It was a matter of taking time off his own journey, postponing his own affairs, perhaps suffering some bad economic consequences because of the delay, and even coming up with his own money to the rescue.  

            Being Catholic is doing good things not only when we go to Mass or to Eucharistic Adoration, or when we volunteer. Being Catholic is being willing to do good things also when nobody knows about it, when a friend or fellow student needs a word of encouragement, an explanation about a difficult lesson, or even just only a smile.

            Being Catholic is understanding Jesus’ death on the Cross as a tremendous, painful, excruciating sacrifice for which there is no better way to thank Him than by doing our very small part.


No comments:


Back to TOP