The king with a heart of gold

Publish date 15-07-2023

by Max Laudadio

There are men who have written, or are still writing, important pages in the book of life, but I don't always see authenticity in their deeds. As, for example, in those who demand recognition of the results obtained, as if otherwise everything would lose value, or in those who like to underline the greatness of their deeds, almost as if they wanted to rise above those who are unable to achieve them. What is the value of any action, or word, however good it may be, if it is not accompanied by humility?

I love the humble. And for two reasons: the first because I consider humility the greatest conquest of every man, evidently also realizing that I am not always able to apply it, and second, but only temporarily, because behind humility very often hides an intelligence not indifferent emotional, which does not feed on a man's level of education, but has its roots in the deepest and most sincere feelings. Emotional intelligence is an unexpected gift.

A few days ago a dear friend of mine, Tonino, king of Tavolara, a small Sardinian island considered the smallest kingdom in the world, turned ninety. To tell the truth, history has told of this tiny paradise since the times of the kingdom of Sardinia, when the Savoys declared it the property of the Bertoleoni family, but the passage of time and the lack of official documents have made this beautiful story a romantic legend that has been handed down from generation to generation.

Whether it's true or not though, the king of her makes her as alive as ever. Tonino is a fisherman, perhaps one of his best, and with his children runs one of the restaurants on the island. But Tonino is much more. As often happens with people born almost 100 years ago, way back in 1933, his level of education is limited to the most elementary teachings, but the greatness of his heart has allowed him to grow up with sound principles and true feelings. Sufficient to make him move if a cormorant in the wild looks for him every day, at the same time, to eat some sardines from his hands, or even only when a sunset decides to appear before his eyes with the magnificence of his colors.

Tonino was born and raised in Tavolara and lived through the time when the island was supported by its lime kilns, but also through the fear of bombs during the war, or the lack of food, until he saw the transformation of its land in a tourist spot, perhaps one of the most famous and coveted in the world, and the almost disfiguring onslaught of visitors in recent years.
The king has always remained there, kind to those who stop him and ask him for a souvenir photo, committed to showing the importance of the nature that embraces him, sincere with anyone who asks him, wise and humble in the role he represents.

Tonino today is all that a man should aspire to achieve, without ever having fallen into the temptation of power, of the exaltation of his own ego, or of the fake feel-good and more likely classist judgment that characterizes our era.

He continues to smile as he walks barefoot on the planks of the pier, while he retrieves the line from his squid, while he awaits the arrival of his nieces who have come ashore to attend school. But he also smiles when he watches “his” cormorant leave after a delicious meal, when he waters the small vegetable garden behind the restaurant, when he sees the crabs chasing each other, when he recognizes an octopus returning to make its den under the pier, and even just when a seagull takes flight.
Tonino smiles, as he smiles anyone who has chosen feeling rather than being, us rather than I, love and not selfishness. Tonino smiles, because Tonino is a king with a heart of gold.

Max Laudadio
NP April 2023

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