It was the summer following my ordination in 1977. I accompanied a group of young people of The World Group to a region in Palermo, Sicily, called La Calza, so as to help the Mother Teresa Sisters by organizing a kind of summer camp for street boys.
You must always begin your work from the given situation as is, and not from your pre-conceived ideas.
What became for me an indelible experience which has accompanied me ever since, was a brush I had one morning with one of these little boys. He was drawing a tree, and he decided to colour the tree trunk in blue. Out of my superior knowledge, I asked him whether he had ever seen a blue tree trunk. He simply fled away, crying his eyes out. He went down the four storeys … I dashed after him, and only with the promise of “cavallo”, did he acquiesces, and get on my shoulders – so I had to carry him up to the fourth floor again.
Many years later, whilst studying in Rome, the pedagogy professor was always repeating: “Si incomincia sempre dal campo”: You must always begin your work from the given situation as is, and not from your pre-conceived ideas. My experience with that young boy from La Calza convinced me the pedagogy professor was right.