I am currently enjoying a working holiday alone in Florence, trying to finish up a difficult writing project that takes place here. During the first week, I didn’t get much of importance done, so I decided I needed to make a plan and stick to it. I spent an hour the night before this plan was to unfold, meticulously mapping out my day, taking into consideration my impaired walking ability (I still haven’t completely recovered from surgery fourteen months ago!). I felt competent once again. In control.
Don’t ever say that. Despite what you may think, you are not in control!
Scarcely was I out the door the next morning, than I saw my bus pulling away. In an attempt to catch it while it stopped for traffic, I tripped and fell flat on my face. My glasses miraculously survived (they are only held together by superglue at this point and I am blind without them), but I sustained a real whack to my right hand, shoulder and knee. The wind was knocked out of me, and despite the wonderful Florentines that instantly surrounded me with solicitude, I couldn’t get up right away, though I kept reassuring them that I was fine.
That is when God opened the windows of Heaven and endowed me with the sweetest experience I have had since I last held a grandchild. A young man, not more than thirty, stayed by me, gathered my scattered belongings, and coaxed me off the sidewalk a little at a time, finally hoisting me all the way. Then he put my hand through his arm and insisted on getting me to the corner where there was a cafe where I could sit down. (Those cynics among you who may think he had ulterior motives obviously don’t realize I am an old lady to someone of his age.)
Overcome by his kindness, I was bowled over when he asked me what I would like to drink. I asked for a Coke and went for my purse to get the money (they are expensive over here). He waved me off and went for my drink and coffee for himself. Then he sat with me, calming me. (My pain was embarrassingly obvious.)
We were soon talking about the genius of Brunelleschi (who invented the first dome since classical times, seemingly brick by brick) and how it gives him such joy every time he passes the Duomo. He went on to say how much he loves seeing views of it from high places. I had not yet been to Fiesole (the town perched in the Tuscan hills over Florence), but he drew me a map with roads, showing me the best place to walk for a good view.
We talked for approximately 45 minutes. He got my website address because he was curious about my books. Then he went to pay the bill. To my surprise, he returned to the table with a ticket for four bus rides! I thanked him over and over in English and Italian. He was the Good Samaritan to the nth degree. And the thing that is beautiful about it is that he is not alone. Elisabetta (my ubiquitous hostess) was not at all impressed by this story, only by the fact that I denied her a chance to mother me and went with a stranger instead.
I have been reminded that that kind of selfless love is what my characters are moving towards in the book I came here to write. This young man was a reminder of why I had to come to Italy to write it.
I pray nightly that through me or some other means, these dear people will some day have the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. That they can be so wonderful without it, is a powerful witness to the Light of Christ that resides in every man.
G.G. Vandagriff is the author of eleven novels. Her latest, the mystery Foggy, With a Chance of Murder, will be published in April. Her historical novel, The Last Waltz: A Novel of Love and War, won the 2009 Whitney Award for Best Historical Fiction. Recently published was Pieces of Paris. She loves to hear from her fans and friends at her website http://ggvandagriff.com (where she is currently running a contest) or her blog http://ggvandagriffblog.com (where she is chronicling her adventures in Italy.)