And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins. -1 Peter 4:8
We just received news that Igor was fired from his job.
Seemingly, everything was going well. Igor liked his job and was beginning to get excited about his future. He even considered going to night school to complete his high school education. Then suddenly, we received this disturbing news. We did not hear this from him directly. One of his friends told us about it. We walked past where he worked and sure enough, he was not there. We went home little sad and disappointed that day. We wanted the best for Igor and this job was the right step towards this direction. Now, we were concerned that he might give up on everything.
We went to the project where Igor was living the very next day. As usual, we waited in the lobby as the staff went to get him. Then we heard some footsteps coming down the stairs and it was Ana Paula. She greeted us with a broad happy smile and sat down beside us. We were little surprised by her cheerfulness. We asked her about Igor’s job and she did not appear to know that Igor got fired. She thought that he had given up on his work. After a brief moment of silence, she asked us a surprising question. She wanted to know if we liked Igor. We were a little taken aback. I told her that I hoped that it was obvious. Then she rephrased her question. She wanted to know if we considered him like a son. This was still a strange question and I was trying to read between the lines. I think that she is intrigued by our relationship with her and Igor. She was trying to figure out what motivates us to care about them.
Ana Paula wanted to know if we are especially interested in them because we do not have any children. She was trying to find out if we were fulfilling our paternal desire by caring for them. Well, we are old enough to be their parents. However, paternal desires did not bring us to Brazil. It was something more profound and special. However, at that particular moment I was at a loss of words to express exactly why we are concerned and desire the best for her and Igor. Unfortunately, before we could bring this interesting conversation to an end, Igor came down and the subject was changed almost immediately. We were curious as to why he lost his job.
Igor missed a day of work without informing his boss. He said that he had a good reason. He went to pick up his two year old daughter for the weekend. Ana Paula and Igor lost custody of their child when they were living in the streets. Recently, they gained visitation rights on the weekends. This is just trial period. If they are able to honor these visits for a period of time, the judge might grant them full custody when they move to a place of their own. This is their goal. For Igor, this is one of the most important goals of his life. Unfortunately, Igor does not understand how employment works. He does not know how to prioritize his time, as well as his responsibilities as an employee. I cannot really say that he doesn’t know how to do it because this would imply that he is disorganized. This is not the case. Igor is not aware of what he needs to do as an employee. He knows how to do the work but about the relationship between an employee and employer, he has no idea. He thinks of his employer as a friend. All his life, his relationships are based on friendships. He has never had a relationship with his parents; they died when he was eight and everyone he knows are his friends. He does not understand the concept of having varieties of relationships.We take these things for granted, but most of us learn these things through examples of our parents. One of the roles of parents is to teach us how to relate to the world.
Igor knows how to survive in the streets. In the streets, what was in front of him took precedence. Everyone living in the streets understood this. Naturally, Igor thought that his boos would understand as well. He was disappointed when his boss fired him. He thought that his boss was unreasonable. It was not the right time to tell Igor that he was wrong. It was just time to listen. We have to listen to know what Igor knows and doesn’t know. We can only be his guide if we allow him to show us how to do it.
Ana Paula was perceptive. Igor needs parent-like figures to help him navigate in this world. Perhaps, this is why she asked us if we thought of them as our children. They both need some parental guidance. However, we are not here to be their parents even though this might be the role for this particular period of their lives. One day, they will not need us in this role and we hope that we can still be part of their lives. Our relationship is not defined by roles but it is defined by a gift. This gift does not have a time limit or a specific role. This gift is a gift that keeps expanding. This gift is none other than Love.
We did not generate this gift. We received this gift and each gift comes with a certain responsibility. This is why sometimes it is harder to give away something than to sell it. When we buy something, we don’t have any responsibility to the one who sells it to us. However, Love can only be received as a gift. We cannot receive it without being inspired by its Giver. The Giver shares His gift openly and generously to the world. He gives the gift so that we can do the same. The gift itself becomes more meaningful and powerful each time we share it. In fact, its true value is only appreciated when we share it. Each time we share it, we discover its magnitude and intensity. It opens our eyes to see the beauty of the Giver present in the lives of others. It is not our desire to fulfill certain roles that brought us here. It is this gift that enables us to see the beauty and power of the Great Gift-giver working in the lives of Igor and Ana Paula.
I am not sure that Ana Paula would understand my answer. This answer is perhaps just for me to understand what motivates me to be here.