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Note: This is part of a new serial fiction series focusing on the life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, following the life of a fictional character as he encounters the saint. New chapters are released every Sunday! Click here for the previous chapter(s).
“Giorgio, is that your first name?”
Matteo was very curious about this generous young man, a man clearly loved by all the other homeless people.
“My full name is Pier Giorgio Michelangelo Frassati, but all my friends call me ‘Giorgio.’ Whatever you do, don’t call me ‘Pier!'” He buckled over laughing. “Now enough about me! This looks like tonight will be your first here at La Crocetta. Can I get you anything else besides warm food and a better blanket?”
“Don’t bother about m–”
Matteo couldn’t finish his sentence because of another severe coughing fit. His whole body was rebelling against the six months he spent in the asbestos mines north of Turin.
“You need a doctor. I’ll tell you what. I have a good friend of mine who owes me a favor. I’ll have him come by tomorrow with me and check you over!”
The kindness of this young man was astounding. Matteo thought to himself, “Why does he care so much about me? I am worth nothing. I have no friends. No family. Nothing. If I die, no one will be at the funeral. Yet, this ‘Giorgio,’ keeps on helping me. Why?”
Giorgio visited with the rest of the homeless, laughed with them, shared stories of the day and after an hour, he left for the night. It still astonished Matteo that there could exist a person who cared so much for the poor. It didn’t make any sense. There was absolutely no benefit to him. He should be out partying with his friends, not taking care of these worthless people!
Matteo continued to think about this stranger as he curled up underneath his new blanket and fell asleep on the steps of the church.
In the morning the sun’s warmth was welcoming, and it started to refresh his tired body. Then, as he looked around, he didn’t see anyone.
Where is everybody?
Matteo turned around and wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
A swift kick into his side. “Wake-up, sleepy head!”
Another kick. Matteo stumbled to his feet and then realized he was much taller than his assailant. However, the boy’s friends then started throwing rocks at him and calling him names.
Matteo grabbed his things and didn’t look back as the gang of boys continued to laugh, but stopped following after him. He realized these were boys were on their way to school, who wanted to have a little “fun” with a homeless person. It was something he probably did when he was younger. No one was there to stop the ridicule, but even if there were, who would defend him? Homeless people were worthless.
As the day wore on, Matteo wandered about the streets of Turin, still ashamed of his situation. He didn’t want to beg for money, but he did find some food that someone threw out their window. It was some moldy bread, but his stomach was empty and it was the only meal he had that day.
During the afternoon Matteo found a hidden alcove and sat down for a short nap. There wasn’t much to do and the nap helped him forget about his pain for a little while. When he woke-up, the sun was setting and Matteo remembered.
He had to get back to La Crocetta. The thought filled him with a glimmer of happiness. Being a homeless person wasn’t an experience he enjoyed, and after the morning’s events, he looked forward to seeing someone who truly cared about him. He still didn’t understand Giorgio, but he knew he could count on this young man.
Matteo’s pace quickened as he tried to race back to the church. His wanderings took him far away, but it didn’t take him too long, as he made a few short cuts through alleyways and in between buildings.
When he reached La Crocetta, he saw Giorgio again, laughing, filled with joy as he talked with the others. Next to him was another man who was carrying a small black bag. That must be the doctor.
Matteo was a few steps away when Giorgio caught sight of him.
“Matteo! Wonderful to see you again!”
A small grin started to come from Matteo’s face. He never expected to smile today, but he couldn’t help feeling a little lighter when around Giorgio.
“Come, come! Meet my friend Dr. Giuseppe. He will have a look at you.”
Matteo approached the doctor, who took a few instruments from his bag. After examining him for a few minutes, Dr. Giuseppe spoke to Giorgio.
“Giorgio, this man has severe lung damage. The smoke in the city is not good for him. Without receiving any further medical treatment, the best remedy for him is to breathe some fresh air. Hopefully with better nutrition and fresh air, his body can start to heal.”
Giorgio looked concerned as he talked with the doctor, but then his face lightened and he turned to Matteo. He put his arm around him and pointed into the distance.
“Matteo, Dr. Giuseppe said you need fresh air and I know just the place to go! A few of my friends and I are going on a hike tomorrow in the mountains. Will you join us? Don’t worry, we will go on the easy trails for you!”
Matteo was shocked again. Why was Giorgio so concerned about him? He barely knew him and now he wanted him to go on a hike with his friends?
“Please, Giorgio, don’t worry about me. I don’t even have any–”
Giorgio put his hand up in the air.
“Enough of the excuses! You are coming with us tomorrow, bright and early! I will make sure you have some new clothes and boots. You’re lucky that you and I are the same size!”
To be continued …
Come back next Sunday for the next chapter!