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The smoker boy



An experience at Davao

01/06/2007: Philippines

This story of a singular experience comes to us from Davao where the second animation course has taken place for the brothers who have volunteered for the Mission Ad Gentes programme.

He is called Dennis or Dionisio, or simply Syo. He lives in Piape (Padada, Philippines). He is fifteen years old but his height is that of a child aged ten. He smokes; hence the name we have given him: the smoker boy. When he has a cigar in his mouth it seems as though the cigar is bigger than he is.

He comes from a broken family. His father has left and his mother is living with a bad type, as he says.

He used to follow me everywhere like a little dog, usually not saying anything, as if being with me gave him the security of a paternal figure. People used to say to me: “He smokes because he does not have a father to forbid it.” I would give him some cigarettes from time to time, when he would say to me: One more, please. (“More” is the brand of tobacco that many people smoke there. More naughty than sinful.)

The smoker boy is a fisherman. He goes fishing twice a day: at four o’clock in the morning and at four o’clock in the afternoon. He is the one who feeds his whole family. Everyone in Piape knows him, speaks well of him and respects him.

Once when he had just been fishing with his mother, I was helping them to push the boat to the beach. I asked if they had caught a lot of fish. He showed me the bucket in which there were fifteen fish: it wasn’t even three kilos. To my surprise, he took five fish and offered them to me. I was speechless.

I received them as one of the best gifts that I had ever been given in my life. A boy fishes for four hours, only catches fifteen miserable fish, which they were going to eat, he and his family today… and he goes and offers me five of them. A third. It was as if I had offered one third of my salary to someone richer than I… That was too much for me. I was a witness to an act of pure generosity, of pure gratuity, purely Gospel.

Smoker boy, I know that you cannot hear me, that we will not see each other again (except in heaven of course). But I can tell you that with your fifteen years, your poverty and your ignorance and your lack of a future in life, you have taught me a great lesson. A lesson that I will never easily forget. Thank you, smoker boy. May God bless you!

To know more: http://magopdavao.blog.com

Eugenio Sanz

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