BETWEEN THE LINES

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Book of Christmas Virtues

Between the Lines

Sometime last year, tucked in the muscled folds of a metropolitan newspaper in Italy, a diminutive advertisement tiptoed out to compete with screaming headlines.

Elderly, retired schoolteacher seeks family willing to adopt grandfather. Will pay expenses.

Eighty-year-old Giorgio Angelozzi had packed himself and his seven cats into the wrinkles of a two-room flat, along with his modest book collection of dusty Greek dictionaries and classics written by noteworthy ancients like Pliny and Horace and Kant. From this cramped home on a dead-end road, he occasionally maneuvered the hilly paths to a local village. But, for the most part, his scholarly, retired life was quiet. Too quiet.

Widowed seven long, lonely years, Giorgio found himself counting the number of words he spoke aloud each day. And on those days when he had nothing to say—even to the padding cats—the count was zero. A zero as hollow as his life.

To his dismay, he discovered he wasn’t done giving and needing love.

Hungering for human contact, Giorgio made a thoughtful decision and put into motion a unique plan: He put himself up for adoption. His humble appeal in the classifieds of an area newspaper immediately captured the attention of an entire nation.

Giorgio’s plight tugged at Italy’s heartstrings, made it sit up and take notice. Government officials and villagers, counselors and commoners, clerics and laymen—all jolted to the core by this plea for adoption—took an internal accounting. The result? An immediate surge of response that brought more than offers of lodging. It brought eager offers of friendship. Of family life. Of . . . love.

After all, Giorgio didn’t advertise himself as a mere tenant. He didn’t seek a position as a part-time professor nor a salaried tutor. Instead, Giorgio sought a family willing to adopt a grandfather, a family willing to accept him as part of itself.

At one time or another, each of us—like Giorgio—must face life’s tough, emotion-wrenching moments. We might deal with the trials of rejection, bankruptcy, terminal illness, loneliness, unhappy partnerships or even death. Love is the universal answer to our difficulties.

If we are fortunate, we realize the power of love—that spark of the divine inherent in each of us—to smooth and soothe, to heal and restore. We search for it in our relationships; we invite it into our lives. We admire it in others; we cultivate it in ourselves.

We grasp for it with both hands and, if we are smart, we give it away with both, understanding that love, like music, is a melody that lingers in the heart long after the words have been sung. It is the grace that allows us to feel for each other, to put ourselves in our neighbors’ places. We see with their eyes, hear with their ears and feel with their hearts. Better yet, we learn to view others through God’s eyes.

Giorgio moved his seven cats and his worn library to the home of his new family. Undoubtedly, he also packed enough warmth and memories to flourish wherever he settled, valued by this new family that love alone created.

The lesson we might all share from this Italian love story? L’amore é come il pane. Bisogna che si faccia di nuovo ogni giorno. “Love is like bread. It needs to be made fresh every day.”

And what better time than this Christmas season to share your loaf, to reach out in love and adopt others into the embrace of your family’s circle?

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