When I realize that I am worth

Publish date 04-07-2022

by Mattia Cignolo

Young people are the poorest. To say it is a group that was born with the vocation to work to reduce hunger in the world. 1964: a group of young people who had brought stories of undernourished children into their hearts, completely helpless and abandoned to their fate, founds Sermig. For many years now, that same group, while continuing to help those who suffer and die from the lack of primary resources, finds itself experiencing that the poorest are really young people. In Italy and Europe first of all. But what kind of poverty is it about? And above all, how can we fight it? It is not "simply" a question of giving a meal to a hungry person or a glass of water to a thirsty one. It is a question of awakening the awareness that living makes sense and in order to live you need to nourish yourself ... Not just food, but something deeper.

A 14-year-old boy comes to mind. A difficult story of adoption and rebellion. He had landed at the Arsenale because he was suspended from school.
He attended a high school in Turin. The teachers had "sent" it to us because they no longer knew how to get it.
He could not communicate with the world if not with continuous provocations and breaking every rule, on principle. Unsustainable for school. Especially for that school.
Frequented by families from Turin well, with perfect children ... on the cover, but just a millimeter below the layer of respectability stuck, which makes you delude yourself that you are better, equal to everyone else.

He had to spend a few days with us instead of attending classes. After the first moments of embarrassment, he realizes that the Arsenal is not a punitive prison, but a beautiful place, and that I, even though I don't know it yet, already love him. He sets off the spark and creates a relationship, a dialogue. Also made up of challenges and provocations, but still a dialogue.
I don't have a specific preparation that makes me classify Michele in category A, B or C, but I certainly manage to dribble the walls between me and him and, in flashes, enter into deep communication with them, I dare say heart to heart. In one of those moments he changes his expression and with a question mark on his face, he looks me in the eye and says: «Stop telling me that the reeds hurt me! I know very well that they hurt me! I feel it on me that they hurt me! This is not the point! " And I, in turn with a question mark in my head, look at him and answer: «And what would this point be?».

“The point is that I don't give a damn about it hurting me. I don't understand why, but I don't give a damn! ». At that moment the challenge, the arrogance, had vanished. He really he was wondering how it was possible that he didn't care about being okay. Indeed, almost as if he found relief in hurting himself. A world has opened up to me. A complex world, full of facets, but with a common denominator. Not perceiving one's own value, not being able to love oneself and not being able to relate to the other. All this entangled in an existential loneliness that blocks everything and makes everything tiring. In that swamp that swallows you and that nobody wants to see, anything, even the worst, even the pain, becomes better than nothing, and therefore in an absurd way, even a good thing.
Unfortunately Michele is still in the swamp. Today more than before. The joints became cocaine and crack. The network of adults around him after so many attempts is trying others. Stubbornly. Continuing to believe that no one is lost. Never!

Over the years I have known many Michele. He is an extreme case perhaps, but he teaches us something very widespread that characterizes many young people in different ways. Young people who feel insecure, prey to anxiety at any unforeseen event, with very low self-esteem, with suffering related to their family affairs that have weakened them and closed them in on themselves. So closed as to isolate themselves and not be able to bring out what they really are.
To a different extent from each other, the young people of 2022 are alone, immersed in an existential malaise that they themselves do not know how to give a name. They find the cure in what dulls anxieties and pains in the moment but empties you even more over time. In almost every class there are children who hurt themselves with self-harm, who have eating disorders, who isolate themselves from the world by closing themselves into the virtual one or who let themselves pass over everything with disinterest and apparent selfishness, taking refuge in apathy surreal.

So what can we do? What are kids asking of today's adults? They are asking us to make them understand in facts why we brought them into the world. Because it's worth the effort, making sacrifices. After all, without knowing it, they ask us to show them what we believe in facts ... so that they too can cling.
Of course, the era of sermons and prohibitions is over. It is the era in which the only weapon we have is the conviction and to persuade at least someone must be credible. Constant credible love that becomes a hand-to-hand struggle immersed in the mud of life is the only therapy that can help some of them find some meaning in life.

Are we adults ready? Have we realized that our children are basically asking us to be adults all the way? Perhaps young people with their provocations can help us adults to take that shot that would really improve our society, for everyone.

Mattia Cignolo
NP March 2022

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