CHRISTIAN COMMENT: I never wanted to go to Italy

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WHEN my wife first suggested it a few years back, I said no, I didn’t want to go there.

We went. We’ve been there several times since.

We’ve just had two weeks there – on the Riviera coast.

The sun shone. Temperatures every day were around thirty degrees.

It’s been hard coming home......

One day we decided to explore a hill path up to a local beauty spot.

We went on a whim, not knowing how far it was, nor how steep.

We didn’t have the right shoes and, most important, we didn’t have any water. Very silly.

We went up and up. Spectacular views.

And a sense that we were the only people who’d made this trip – clearly not true but it felt like that.

When we did eventually meet someone, he was sensibly kitted out, looked pretty fit anyway and had a dog (Did we need a dog? To fight off dangerous animals? To go for help when we broke a leg or something?)

We realised after a while that we were getting hot, the path was getting rougher and we were scarcely halfway.

We’d be lucky to get there and, if we did, we could get seriously dehydrated before we got back to the town.

Rather despondent we sat down and looked at the view.

A wide bay, deep blue under a cloudless sky, a few white-sailed yachts, a colourful village tucked into a steep hillside in the middle distance – wonderful.

Reluctantly we prepared to turn back.

Suddenly, out from the bushes on the path above us came three people – one a middle-aged lady, the others definitely in the ‘old’ category but all quite sprightly and properly kitted.

Our first thought “If they can make it at their age” – they were clearly coming back from a successful ascent – “surely we can too?” But our lack of water was clear and going on would not have been wise.

In fragmented Italian we replied to their greetings and added that we were going to turn back because we had no water.

On hearing of our plight, all three opened their backpacks and took out their own water bottles. With a smile they offered an unopened one to us and assured us that they had plenty and that we must accept this bottle as a gift with their good wishes.

It lasted us to the top – which was so worthwhile visiting – and all the way back to the town. A Godsend.

OK, we met some nice people and they were kind to us. So?

What we call simple human kindness comes from God.

He created us to be social beings, caring for one another. It’s embedded in our DNA.

Why is it not more widespread? What happens to it far too often?

Fear happens to it. Grief. Pain. Anxiety.

All the ills the flesh is heir to (today’s Shakespearean quote).

All these things steal and weaken and destroy our natural love for our fellow humans.

So, when we do meet with it, we need to be thankful and whenever possible do the same ourselves.

Jesus said “If you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”

For “cup” read “bottle”.

God is going to bless that Italian family for their kindness. Ditto you and me.

Nigel O’Dwyer lives and works in Worthing but is prepared to transfer to Genoa