In December of 1967 I was living in the small city of Bergamo in Northern Italy. Towards the end of the month I had a sore throat along with a fever and general malaise. I was miserable but because I was young I didn’t pay attention to my health and went on with my daily activities. Unfortunately it turned out to be strep throat. It was during this time that I received the most valuable Christmas present I ever received.
One mile from my apartment lived an elderly woman with whom I had done some work. She was 75 years old and known to me as La Nona (grandma). She was a widow living in a one-bedroom apartment built in 1350 A.D. in La Città Vecchia (The Old City).
La Nona was a poor woman living off a monthly government pension of £25,000 (lira), which at the time was equivalent to less than $45.00 U.S. dollars. I was living frugally on $100 per month. She knew I was sick and one afternoon she walked to my apartment and presented me with a gift. An ugly brown sweater purchased with love at the open market.
It did not match any of my clothes yet it was warm and comfortable. Because La Nona gave it to me I wore it often. I don’t know what she paid but I am certain it was more than she could afford. I still have this sweater and I remain touched and grateful for this precious gift.
Over the years I have often thought about La Nona and her gift. I have always appreciated her sacrifice to help me in my time of need. Helping our children learn to appreciate and act whenever opportunities come to serve others will pay dividends as they learn the value of receiving as well as giving selfless service.
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