A lesson for us all of generosity and gratitude.
Giovanni is just a little boy, but we Christians know that if we do not become like children, we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This boy did something that reminds us of the poor widow in the gospel who threw into the offering box in the temple everything she had to live on, without holding anything back for herself. Giovanni didn’t hold anything back either. As reported in La Repubblica, the five-year-old put the few coins he had saved up into an envelope to give them to Dr. Pietro Caldarella, subdirector of the European Oncology Institute, who had cured Giovanni’s mother when she was sick with breast cancer.
“They’re for research,” said Giovanni, putting his precious package into the hands of the amazed oncologist, who could barely hold back his tears. “I wanted to cry,” the doctor said on Facebook last year after the event, in a post that has received thousands of likes and comments.
What an amazing gesture of maturity! Children truly believe in what they do. They take things seriously, and they give everything, not just what is extra or left over, as we adults often do. We try to find shortcuts, and ways to give less, and look for escape routes. We are skeptical, whereas for children, everything is possible.
Giovanni gave his donation, 45 cents of a euro—about $0.50 in US dollars—to the doctor on the occasion of a checkup for his mother who, the year before, had undergone an operation and chemotherapy, and who today is cancer-free. The appointment meant a trip from the island of Sardinia to Milan, in northern Italy, a distance of nearly 500 miles. When they finally arrived, Giovanni gave the doctor the envelope, on which he had written, “Caro Cadarella” (“Dear Cadarella,” endearingly misspelling the doctor’s last name, Caldarella), “Da Giovanni” (“From Giovanni”). It contained the few coins he had, and he wanted to donate them for cancer research, in a special gesture of thanks.
“The envelope was heavy,” the oncologist told La Repubblica, “and I understood that I’d find more inside than just a note.” Giovanni looked Caldarella straight in the eye when he gave him the donation, and the doctor, who could barely hold his gaze due to his emotion, replied with a voice full of pride: “You’re a real little man.”
What makes us men? What makes us free people? The ability to offer what is dearest to us, to show how deeply something is close to our heart. But maybe only children and the poor are capable of it, because they know what is really essential.
“I’ve been a surgeon for 20 years,” Caldarella told La Repubblica. “I’ve seen too many sad stories, but this gesture in particular has really moved me. They’re just a few coins, but it’s beautiful to see our future in this child, made up of simple gestures.”
The true value of Giovanni’s gift isn’t monetary; it’s the lesson of generosity and gratitude we all should learn to imitate.