Testimony of faith.  A tap on the shoulder

Testimony of faith. A tap on the shoulder

When the lockdown was lifted, in May 2020, a friend from the student parish asked me to participate with him in the Order of Malta’s “maraudes” among homeless people in the center of Toulouse. Why did I accept? I didn’t know what it was about, but I liked the idea of ​​doing something with friends. I was starting my life as a student, after years at high school that were not very happy: a pat on the shoulder, just for fun; and another… How could I say “no”, firmly, without violence, to these comrades who belittled me? I didn’t know, so I kept quiet. This insidious form of contempt, of harassment – that’s the right word – undermined me. There were times when I wanted to “let go of everything”.

After a year of marauding, I met a homeless man whom we met – the marauding is done in teams of four – always in the same place, with his friends, installed in a recess of the La Poste office , Place du Capitole. This man, perhaps 55 or 60 years old, greeted us ritually with one of his favorite phrases: “Always calm”, that is to say calm, “always the “smile””, the smile. I felt his desire to give of himself. He was looking for work, despite all kinds of obstacles that homeless people face. Once, his bag containing his identity card and the address of the employer with whom he was to start working was stolen. However, he was never sad, and if I arrived on a trip with low morale, I often came back refreshed by his contact. He made me want to fight.

And then one day, he was no longer there. Five or six months later, marauding near the station, someone taps me on the shoulder: “I’m here! ” It was him. He worked in construction. Shortly after, I became responsible for the young marauders teams, around fifty volunteers. I learned to say “no”: for example, “we can’t keep you on the teams”. The volunteer environment made me want to also become a first aider with the Order of Malta. The long hours waiting at the aid stations are an opportunity for discussions between us on faith. I realize that a gospel verse heard at school in my childhood stays with me: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

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