By René González, ARCORES Brazil
Every day I take the subway and the bus home to the big city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For most of us who use public transportation, those trips become a real challenge. You never know when you will get home. Many times, we almost ride on top of each other, sweating from the heat. You never know if the bus is going to break down or if you will have to get off in the middle of the trip and change buses.
Just the other day the bus broke down in the middle of the trip, and the driver gently told us to get off and wait for another one. In the same place where the vehicle broke down, there had been an accident an hour before, and a group of firemen were finishing cleaning up the blood and the remains of the accident. Many passengers were watching the scene curiously as the new bus arrived. Others were looking at their cell phones, passing the time or sending messages. Suddenly, without expecting it, a sweating firefighter approached me, and with sadness in his eyes said: “There are terrible days in our lives, but life is like that.
“Firefighter’s “terrible day
Those words touched my soul, and it was as if there was a flashback in my life. I remembered the times I had to pick up injured people or dead bodies during my time in Africa. Accidents were a common occurrence. The fireman started telling me and describing what had happened, and what his day was like. It really was a “terrible day”. I didn’t get to say a few words of encouragement and comfort to him. I could only listen to him. Inside me, I wanted to give him a hug, but I was held back by my shyness and didn’t dare. At that moment, my bus arrived, and I said goodbye wishing him that “tomorrow” would be a better day.
I tell you this because, when I got on the bus, I spent the whole trip thinking that I should have given that hug to the fireman. Why didn’t I do it? Because of shyness, embarrassment, ignorance and my own human limitations. Actually, that encounter with the firefighter led me to question other areas of my life regarding my attitudes and my way of experiencing grief, and how to be close to the people who walk beside me.
When I returned home, it was a coincidence that the main news on TV was the accident on the Avenue of the Americas. This time, it was not just another news item, but I could put a face and feelings to what I experienced in that encounter with the fireman. There are “terrible days” in our lives, but that forces us to be reborn every day with hope and to be aware that our attitudes, emotions and hugs have an impact on the people around us.
“Let your embrace be sweet and friendship inseparable” (St. Augustine, sermon 357).