Sacrifice, the word we no longer teach children
By Gabriele Romagnoli / "Mother, what is most valuable in life?" I wasn't asking my mother. He would have looked at me with confusion and answered: "Why should I give you advice? You know how to make mistakes yourself." The question was addressed to Mother Teresa. She had been operated on for a few days and the fact that I found myself next to her was the result of a series of random events. There was still a tube inserted into her throat, making her hoarse voice even more mysterious. The words he uttered were almost incomprehensible. And yet, the answer came strong and clear, repeated three times: “Sacrifice! Sacrifice! Sacrifice!".
Mothers teach, by example or by words. For generations, as it were, it was thought that there was no other possible or meritocratic action, nothing different that could compensate for the sin of life. In the wake of those strange games of chance, I was struck by a very famous book that I had never read. As a single guest, I was in a lost hotel for ten days. By the seventh, I finished all three books I had brought with me and I didn't even have a Kindle. I gave the read books to the lady who was dealing with the hotel. The next morning, when I opened the door to go down to breakfast, I found a box full of used books on the doorstep. At the top was "Angela's Grace", by Frank McCourt.
Angela is the mother of the protagonist, or rather, the author. His book contains memories of his childhood in Catholic and very poor Ireland during the Second World War. She worked a little, and every time she earned something, she spent it at the bar, returning home late singing sad songs and asking the children if they too would be willing to die for their country. Angela gave birth to seven children, but buried three prematurely. He experienced that pain that doesn't even have a name, the loss of a child. He resisted. He was humiliated. He asked for alms. He asked for help. She bowed before relatives, before institutions, before anyone who could give her a mattress and some clothes for her growing children. Frank hates his mother for this behavior, but turns her into a literary heroine, because literature saves what life misunderstands.
Sometimes we like to give new names to old flags. There is no more talk of "sacrifice". The term "sustainability" is used. But how beautiful was that other term. How true. Maybe it's because mothers have taught their children the value of sacrifice. Who would think of educating children with sustainability? It seems mission impossible.
Maybe it's just a way to stop hearing it. When you see and hear children talk about shortcuts to success, easy ways to deal with life, impossible excuses, you get the impression that no one in the family ever said that word. Often, those who have experienced the sacrifice, instead of passing it on to others, prefer to leave it behind, to erase it as a dark page of their history. It's not like that. The night Roberto Benigni received the Oscar, he thanked his parents for the most precious gift they had given him: the gift of poverty. He meant that sacrifice teaches you what really matters and what to give up. But maybe even this is a phrase that is no longer used.
*Gabriele Romagnoli is an Italian journalist, writer and screenwriter, with a long experience in the Italian media and in the management of several television stations. The article was translated into Albanian by Erjon Uka.