Thursday, 25 August 2016

Feastdays with children

I never really could fully comprehend the following extract from Don Bosco's autobiography Memoirs of the Oratory of Saint Francis De Sales, (p 115)... not until my stay at Ramanthapur!
On the feast of All Saints, Dr Borrelli and I prepared to hear confessions. But everybody wanted to make their confession; what could we do? There were more than two hundred children but only two confessors.  One boy was trying to light a fire; another decided to put it out. The one brought wood, the other water. Buckets, tongs, shovel, jug, basin, chairs, shoes, books - everything was turned topsy-turvy while they were trying to tidy things up! 
Perhaps my formal, organised and structured living in the formation house prevented me from really understanding this scene.  How could there be so much of a confusion?

It was not until I reached Ramanthapur, the rehab home for street children and started involving the boys in preparation for feast days or major celebrations that I not only understood this scene but became a first hand witness to it.  Those boys would be so eager to do anything you ask them to do!!  They only wanted to be part of the ongoing preparations and celebrations.  The greatest punishment would be to ask them to sit quiet!  Entrusted with a responsibility, boys would go to any extent to see that the task is done - even though in the process greater damage is done in another field or portion of the house!  If two of them are assigned to laying the carpet on the stage, they would make sure it is there - but don't ask what became of the backdrop which was worked on for more than a week and was already in place, until these two masters arrived on scene!

Their excitement and goodwill would be brimming over and one cannot even scold them for causing a greater monetary or physical damage.  Even if one did scold, the boy would only be perplexed for just a short while, with that strange look, "What wrong could I have done?" And before you know it, the excitement of the boy has doubled and he shoots off, assuring you, "Don't worry Brother, I'll do it better this time!"  Oh, boy!

That the event itself goes on smoothly and there is no real catastrophe (that the buildings at least are in their own place) is in itself a great miracle under these circumstances.

All said and done, it is worth the risk and perhaps the only meaningful way of truly celebrating a feast with the boys! 

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