full bellies.

After a full day and a half of system updates to my Mac, I’m back online and running OS X Maverick. 

So far, I’m completely underwhelmed by it. But at least I’m not getting notifications to update my system every 10 minutes.

It’s the little things.

Which is why I’m writing a quick blog post before bed to tell you about a little thing I did tonight that made a big difference.

For my Internships class, we are required to attend a volunteering event once during the semester. Another roommate and I signed up to get it checked off early in the semester, a feat that seemed easy in class a few weeks ago, and nearly impossible when I was laying in bed a 6PM earlier tonight.

Around 8PM, we met with a few other students and many community members at Piazza Venezia, which is one of the main squares in Rome. All in all, there were about 20 Romans of all ages, along with 5 ACCENT students, including my roommate and myself. 

Everyone brought something, whether it be a hot dish such as macaroni and cheese or chicken noodle soup, or a side, like pizza, hardboiled eggs, bananas, juice, etc. Personally, I brought juice and merendine.

Merendine is a sweet cake-like treat that comes individually wrapped and in flavors ranging from plum cake to yogurt cake, or chocolate with cream filling. Essentially, they’re sold everywhere and are the Twinkies of Italy. Except people actually eat them.

With all of this food, I thought we would be going inside to get more organized, or at least set up a few tables on the street. Instead, we lined up with our goods, and people came and took hot food on plates, and put the other things in plastic bags. 

I’m going to call these people less-fortunate, because I don’t know enough about them to say anything else. They all were dressed acceptably, cleaned up, and very sweet to me. I don’t know all of their stories, and I don’t need to. I’m just happy to have helped provide them with a good meal.

Once we fed everyone in this location, we walked a short loop around side streets and alleys, and along the way encountered many true homeless people who we stopped and made big plates for.

Homelessness in Italy is really not much worse that what I’ve experienced in the US, but less-restrictive laws on loitering make it easier for those without true shelter to dwell in one place on the street. Because people keep whatever blankets and belongings they have here, they are reluctant to leave for fear of losing their space and small amount of possessions. For this reason, we went to them.

To my surprise, many of them spoke English well, and we very much enjoyed practicing our poor Italian with them. I was shocked how many people knew where Minneapolis was, especially after three weeks of telling less-geographically inclined Italians I live “near Chicago” or “in the middle of the United States”. Everyone we met was so friendly and thankful, and they were so interested in our being American instead of vicitimizing us – as is often the what we experience. 

Aside from the huge amount of food we provided and the company I so much enjoyed, there was one other thing that really touched my heart.

As we were leaving the last homeless person, they were being approached by police officers in full uniform. Fearful for our new friend’s fate, we watched in slight terror.

Instead, we were completely heartbroken.

The officers pulled out another large, new woolen blanket to give to the man already under a few on the sidewalk. They chatted with him as they laid it over him, smiling and laughing as if he were their favorite uncle. It really just tugged at my heart. 

I don’t know what your opinion is on less-fortunate people, and quite frankly I don’t care. But I will say that after tonight, I really feel different about the people I usually put my head down and ignore on the street, even when they aren’t acknowledging me nor have intention to. 

These people weren’t stupid, they were educated and and they were enlightened – the fact alone that I could speak to them in English, about Minneapolis, speaks to that enough. They were just people who needed a little help – and that’s what they were given tonight.

America is a different country – sometimes it feels like it’s on a different planet. I’m not at all saying our police forces aren’t wonderful and our homeless disregarded. There are no comparisons being drawn. What I’m saying is that in Italy, a country so recently ridden by a Fascist dictator, war devestation, and an unwaivering recession – there is hope, and there is a sense of community.

And I’m happy that I cold be a part of it – even if just by passing out my merendine. 

Ciao, for now.


2 thoughts on “full bellies.


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