Special #BeyondMe, the experience of the Loppiano Gen School
What is the Loppiano Gen school? The story is shared by Nicole (Italy), Susanna (Korea), Maria (Spain), and Maria (Mexico) during the Genfest Italy, entitled “Beyond Me”.
NICOLE (Italy): Hi everyone! I’m Nicole, I’m 19 and I came here to Loppiano to attend a school. What is it about? As you can see, I am not alone on this stage: I am accompanied by 36 boys and girls from various countries: from Slovakia to China, from the Philippines to Mexico, from Australia to Korea, and so on. We are from four continents and twenty nationalities.
We are all ‘gen’. The gen are the young people of the Focolare Movement, who believe in, build, and are the united world. We are millions in the world, but some of us heard the call to live an in-depth experience of this Ideal of Unity and universal brotherhood in the Gen School. So, we decided to leave our country, our family, our friends, our studies, and even our work, to come to Loppiano.
The reasons that led us to participate in this school for a few months are many and all different, as is one person from the other.
For example, I had arrived at a moment in my life when I could no longer find answers, a sense to my life. I needed to rediscover what my potential was, to build authentic relationships. I needed to eliminate the indifference that exists in the world starting from myself, and to recharge myself with love, with values. Other gen needed to strengthen their relationship with God, others to experience something great but simple, something that could bring fullness into their lives …
So, living together, experiencing the law of Loppiano, that is, mutual love, we discover the richness that exists in each of us, we live every day the experience that it is possible to build a united world, starting from ourselves.
This is not always easy. Often, we are faced with various obstacles. For example, I remember one day that Maria wanted to leave, to go back home … Is that right, Maria?
MARIA (Spain): I am Maria and I come from Spain. Yes … I got to a point where I could not stand it anymore. I felt called to follow God because I had discovered that if I carried out God’s plan for me, I could be myself and be happy. Here, in the first months it was like that, or at least I tried to convince myself that it was like that. But inside there was a ball that grew and grew and, at a certain point, it broke out in my face. The people next to me, those with whom I lived, seemed false to me. My impression was that their smiles were just masks hiding an unease that they could no longer hide. And, as if this were not enough, I felt that even the people with whom I had already built a relationship based on trust and goodness, were gradually moving away from me. I felt alone, a stranger among many. I could not trust anyone. I was sad, however, I kept smiling. Because I wanted to be like everyone else. That’s why I saw myself as a false person. And I hated myself. But I could not tell anyone because it seemed that nobody cared. I had closed so much that I was here but I was not here. So, I decided to buy my tickets to go back home without saying anything to anyone …
SUSANNA (Korea): I am Susanna, and I come from Korea. I’ve been at the Gen School for 8 months and I too, sometimes, like Maria, faced some difficulties. Such as on the occasion of New Year’s Eve, which, for some Asian countries, is not celebrated on December 31, but it is linked to the moon cycle of that year. This year we celebrated it in February … The Koreans, along with the Chinese, the Vietnamese, and other Asians, we decided to organize a party for all those who live in Loppiano. However, we realized that the time was short and we had to prepare many things. In addition, every decision had to be shared by all of us who belonged to various peoples, but it was not easy to understand each other because we all had different ideas. We needed to listen carefully to each other before doing anything. This required time and an effort to get out of ourselves to meet others. The other gen of the school often asked us how they could help us but these requests became another burden. In fact, a cultural characteristic of our people is that we want to be independent, we do not want to ask for help, because we feel a strong sense of debt. In addition, we did not want others to get tired.
So, we tried to do everything on our own, but this response created a distance in the relationship with the other gen …
MARIA (Mexico): My name is Maria and I come from Mexico. When I arrived in Loppiano, I was very aware of the reality in my country, which had long been struck by violence and drug trafficking. During my first months here I felt like I was living in a different world: I could go out without problems, I did not see situations of poverty, marginalization, injustice, etc. But after a few months, reading the news coming from my country I went into a crisis because I was far away, and I could not do anything. I knew that my friends were living so many problems and difficulties and I could not be with them. I was here, living a reality that was not mine, a reality that usually does not exist out of here, and which is unattainable in my country. I was nostalgic of everything I had left: my friends, my society, my country, my problems, in short, all my past. With the passing of time, I lived my life here as an unreal dream, which was not reproducible in my country, and with the fear of returning home and having to face all the different situations I had left.
Until one day, when I really felt lonely and worried I shared all this to another gen girl, not without a little fear and shame because I’m not used to sharing my problems to others, but I had understood a few days earlier that, to make real relationships grow, we also need to give what is more personal to us. So, we talked and, after quite some time, I felt completely accepted, because that gen listened to my concerns about the social situation in Mexico, about my friends, and made them her own. We prayed together and we both realized that, beyond the diversity of origin we had created such a strong unity that we really belonged to each other, even in sharing our worries and problems, and distances and our different realities no longer mattered.
SUSANNA (Korea): Even our cultural “limit” has been overcome thanks to a sharing. Fortunately, some of us decided to open up to others and explain why we did not ask for help. It was a wonderful opportunity to understand each other and to let them help us. The party was unforgettable and we lived a real family experience. We realized that it was possible to achieve all of this together. In the end we were very tired but really happy, almost like being able to fly!
MARIA (Spain): One day, after a fight with a person I love so much, I burst into tears. I had reached the lowest point, I felt like dying inside. I asked for help to one of the adults who accompany us on this path. However, after hugging me and consoling me, she spoke to me clearly and harshly. She helped me to understand that I was not doing my part to settle the mess I had made inside and outside of me. In fact, I had only made it worse by letting myself be carried away by my fears and prejudices, looking only at myself. Talking to her made me feel again that everything is possible when you share it with others, when you share your life, not only joy but also pain. This gave me the strength to go beyond myself, to open up and share with the other gen what I told you. At that point, I realized that I had looked at everything with “black” eyes. The other gen girls made me realize that since I never spoke, they were not able to help me. From that moment on, everything has changed. I have changed, I feel free to be myself. When something is wrong, I try to go beyond my limits and speak out because in the end, it is the truth that sets us free. In the end, there is no “us” without the others.
NICOLE (Italy): The experience we are doing here at the Gen School is almost over. This leads us to reflect on what we have experienced in these months together. We have learned to go beyond our fears, our limits, and our prejudices to meet the other persons, their needs, and to love them. It helped us to understand more about who we are, and that each of us is a gift to others. What we have experienced here – more or less perfectly -, that it is possible to build a united world, gives us the strength and the energy to take it home, to our countries, wherever we go, in everyday life, with every person we meet. That I build the united world starting from myself, when I choose to go beyond myself and I accept the challenge of taking the first step.