Entrusted by Destiny

Thirty years ago, a young married couple agreed to take in an 18-month-old girl for a short time. Then the circumstances changed. This is the beginning of a story of belonging brought forth by faith


Two mothers, two fathers, three plus two children–in short, a story of an extended family, in which everyone gets along happily in a variegated family ménage? Perhaps one of those that we have read about lately in the newspapers, the subject of “in-depth” analyses by sociologists and psychologists? No, this is a completely different story. It is a story of good and of unexpected grace, and also of pain and detachment (sometimes sought, sometimes desired), but always a story of participation in the good of another who almost inadvertently slipped into the hearts of others and imposed her little presence on them.
The story began about thirty years ago when Luisa, secretary of the GS youth group, heard about a dramatic family situation and asked a newlywed couple who were friends of hers to take in the youngest child, an 18-month-old girl, for a short time. This was an unexpected circumstance to which they simply responded, “Yes,” without spending too much time thinking it over. Thus, one morning this little girl, accompanied by her birth mother, came momentarily into their home and forever into their life–but they didn’t know this yet. The first days were defined by a feeling of strangeness, the same experience as that felt during their caritativa charitable work in the area outside Milan, where there had been no immediate gratification. But that little girl won them over day by day and entered into their hearts. After three months, the baby went back to her birth family, where things seemed to have gained a more normal aspect. It all seemed to be over like that, wrapped up in that brief experience. And yet, this relationship, no matter how it was expressed, was part of their life. They continued to see each other on weekends and spent summer vacations together. Then, one evening, the child’s father, after yet another fight, left the house, taking the little girl with him, and phoned them. They were his only refuge. His intentions were dramatic. They persuaded him to bring them the child. She stayed with them for a month. But things were not resolved. The court decided to take her away from her family and put her temporarily in a home. They continued to see each other on weekends and during vacations. In the meantime, her family situation did not improve and seemed without hope of doing so. It was proposed to put her in a foster home. The couple were no longer newlyweds, they had children of their own by now, but this little girl had already been entrusted to them years earlier, and for them she was their eldest daughter. She was part of their family. So “what our gracious Lord had entrusted to us years before as a gift” was given legal reality by an act of a judge. The years passed, relations continued with her birth family, with ups and downs according to how stormy things were. “The fact that children are not your property was very clear to us, just as it was equally obvious that this little girl was part of our life, even if her family situation might happen to be resolved and she returned to her parents. She had been given to us for always. That relationship could not be broken because, as happens with every child, we shared with her our interests, our desires, our problems, and what we were. This means simply that she will always be in our life.” Simply.
Now that little girl has grown up. She has finished her studies and is married and working. She is an attentive and affectionate mother. The story has a happy ending… but it was not all easy. Relations with her birth family have never been broken off. At times they were the source of pain, anger, and misunderstandings. For a long time she thought she had to be a model daughter, that she had to be grateful to her foster parents for the privileged condition that had been “granted” to her. But this was a sterile, suffocating feeling that made her heart burst with rage at everyone. Now she has retraced her history, finding unmistakable signs of a good design: the “Yes” said almost unconsciously and painfully by her birth parents so that a positive horizon that they could not provide would open up for her, and the other “Yes,” the welcome given her by her foster parents, a more aware “Yes” because it was defined by a concrete faith they had encountered that opened them wide to the world, to the unforeseeable circumstances placed there by the Mystery and that make life fascinating. “This is what my foster parents have especially shared with me: that everything is a gift of Grace. Acknowledged.” Here is, truly, a reason to be grateful and to thank the Lord.