I want to sit beside Baloo

 An unexpected Christmas present

It’s only been two months since I began my ministry with a group of scouts. I hadn’t ever been to scouts before. I didn’t know much about them, and that might very well continue to be the case. Sent to the “Roma 129” troop, I’ve found myself wanting to get to know more about scouting itself, learn something of their particular language (what a sleeping bag is, the correct form of the salute, what Akela’s Council is…), that is, enter into their world, be of some help to them…

Full of enthusiasm, I’m learning something new each day, side by side with the new recruits (the new cub-scouts).

Some time ago, after a day at university, I left for the parish where the meetings are held. Following five hours of lectures and forty minutes of travel by metro, I arrived feeling spectacularly tired, both physically and mentally. As is usual, we began the meeting with a small game on the parish football pitch, after which we headed for the “den” where the cub-scouts meet (a small room covered in drawings, charts and other odds and ends associated with the Jungle Book or with activities held in the past). Then a child shouted: “I want to sit beside Baloo!”

Baloo’s a bear, the master of the law, the Jungle Book character normally played by the pastoral assistant of the scout troop. In this case, myself.

In that moment, all my tiredness disappeared. I felt welcomed and cared for. Someone wanted to sit beside me. Why? It didn’t matter. Someone’s presence in flesh and blood, someone’s embrace, are enough to transform people, granting them the gift of a greater tolerance in the face of difficulty, of a greater joy to share, of gratitude and more. In the same way, the meeting I had been attending with such tiredness changed its colour. It had become a pleasure to be there, an experience of affection, that affection only a child knows how to give.

Returning home, it came to my mind that what I had just lived through was the experience of Christmas. What is Christmas, if not becoming aware that someone has abandoned his “far-off throne” to come to meet us? To come and share in our human nature, right here in our hurried lives, full of things we need to do, full of unforeseen circumstances and difficulties?

Although this is historical event which took place around two thousand years ago, we are invited today to welcome that same light that came into the world to be beside us. Recognising that someone chooses to stay by our side helps us to live our lives in an entirely new way.

Just as in every relationship, however, the one with the Lord can never remain idyllic. He wants to accompany us, he wants to stay by our side. We might very well be frightened by this presence in our lives, fearing those simple words “I want to be by your side!”, words which hold an incomprehensible strength. This is why the Lord moves with great discretion.

I believe that this desire of the Lord is made manifest through those persons who are there beside us, those with whom we live on a day to day basis.

That someone stays there by our side isn’t something that’s always easy to accept. That said, only in the experience of being accompanied in this way can we truly come to appreciate the gift of this presence who sustains and consoles, with whom we can share the joys, difficulties and dreams we have for our lives. The family from Nazareth ended up having to take shelter in a place that wasn’t particularly welcoming, lay their son in a manger precisely because they had been turned away by so many people, because they could not find a decent place to rest.

Let us allow Him who has always desired to be by our side accompany us in our daily lives. Through our brothers and sisters, let us allow ourselves to listen to the Lord: “I want to be by your side!”. Christmas isn’t simply the 25th of December. It’s Christmas every time we find ourselves able to welcome others and allow ourselves to be welcomed, sharing our lives with those who live beside us everyday.

Photo by Jeswin Thomas

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