By Anna Perlini
It was a particularly hot, muggy summer day, and Jeffrey and I had already been traveling for a few hours when we plopped down in a stuffy bus station waiting room in northern Italy. “Did I really have to come?” he muttered.
How had I gotten this idea? Dragging a 14-year-old away from his friends to visit his grandparents—not exactly a teenager’s idea of fun!
We had another hour before we needed to catch the bus that would take us the rest of the way, and I didn’t know which was worse—the stale air in the waiting room or the thick air between us. “Would you like some ice cream?” I asked.
That usually did the trick, or at least it used to. Not this time. “No!” came his sharp reply. “I don’t need it.” My little boy was growing up.
My patience was starting to run out. “Well, I’m going to get some for myself.” I grabbed my purse and headed for the station café, asking Jesus to restore good communication between Jeffrey and me.
When I returned, Jeffrey was talking with a boy a year or two older. “Emmanuel is Romanian,” Jeffrey explained as he introduced us, “but he speaks Italian well. He’s living in a trailer nearby with his mom and two younger sisters, and doing odd jobs to help support his family.” Emmanuel was bright, well-mannered, and said he was willing to do just about any kind of work.
He and Jeffrey continued the animated conversation that my return had interrupted. When Jeffrey told Emmanuel that he had gone to a summer camp in Timișoara, Romania, Emmanuel lit up. “That’s where I come from!” he said. I could tell it really made Emmanuel’s day to find a boy about his age whom he could talk to and relax with. Also, Jeffrey seemed very interested in this boy’s life and in meeting someone about his own age who was fending for his mom and sisters.
When it was time to catch our bus, Jeffrey prayed for Emmanuel and his family and then gave Emmanuel one of the gospel tracts we had with us, along with some money for his family.
“Mom,” Jeffrey whispered as we took our seats, “that was a hundred times better than ice cream!”
Sometimes when we are upset or discouraged, all it takes to make us forget our frustration and feel better is a little giving of ourselves.
Anna Perlini is a cofounder of Per un Mondo Migliore (www.perunmondomigliore.org), a humanitarian organization active in the former Yugoslavia since 1995.
Article originally published in Activated magazine.