Saturday, August 10, 2013

Love is not Enough: Don Bosco

St. Don Bosco is often quoted as saying that children need not only to be loved but to feel the love. Writing in the Peace Weekly a Salesian brother explains what this means in practical terms. He  shares a home with more than 20 teens, which is like a "tree with thick branches never having a calm day no matter how little the wind is blowing--a Korean proverb he likes to quote, meaning that with a big family you are always going to have  difficulties, and he has had his share of them, he says. The boys have had different home environments and training, which often leads to quarreling, missed school and occasional runaways. 

Every Saturday afternoon the boys are given spending money and allowed to leave the house. This is always a happy day for them. On one such day he learned that two of the boys had runaway the previous day. At first, it was easy to find those who had left but with each repetition it became more difficult.

One Saturday when he was giving out the money, he also gave it to those who had run away and returned. One of the boys complained to the Brother that the runaways should not be given the money. "Running away is a bad habit they have, and to give them money will make them even worse," the boy said. "It will make running away all that more frequent."  Most of the boys agreed with him.

There were others, though, who agreed with the Brother that they should be given the spending money. One of the boys who agreed, having once runaway himself and a few years older than the recent runaways, said they would not do anything bad if given the money. The runaways, greatly pleased with the Brother's decision, left the house humming, money in hand. The rest of the group looked at the Brother and the runaways with perplexed looks on their faces, the Brother said. 

That night the runaways returned to the house like victorious generals returning from war.  The boys who complained about giving them money, with an embarrassed smile asked for forgiveness. Even though they did runaway, they were treated the same as the others, which made them feel they were loved, the Brother said. They never ran away again, he said, and the numbers of those who did were less.

To the Brother, this was  a good example of the power of forgiveness and concern that enabled the boys to do the right thing. It was precisely the runaways, in this situation, he said, that needed to feel the love that Don Bosco so much stressed.

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