Hopelessness threatens to overwhelm him and bone aching weariness make him wonder if this life is really worth living. It’s the endlessness of it all that drains away any last shed of hope.
A few kilometres away a meeting is taking place in a warm, well-lit drawing room. A discussion is underway about what is to be done with the Palazza Migliori, a 19th century palace on the edge of St Peter’s Square.
The building has just been vacated by a Calasanziane order that has worked there for 70 years. It's prime real estate. There's strong consensus that it should be turned into a hotel for the hoards of tourists that visit the Vatican every year. They would pay handsomely to stay so close. It seemed like a forgone conclusion.
Pope Francis has listened quietly to all the recommendations and now it is his turn. He agrees there is little doubt that it could be a lucrative enterprise but he has a very different vision.
It sounds like a fairy tale. Some see it as a waste. But rather that being wasted, beauty is doing a healing work in each of their lives, restoring dignity and hope. One of the volunteers who work amongst them said it reminded her of the story about the woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus feet. Many criticised her wastefulness, saying the perfume could have been sold for a lot of money that could have been given to the poor. Jesus said; she has done a beautiful thing.
I can’t help thinking that those people no longer sleeping rough or queuing in long lines hoping for a dormitory bed for the night are feeling very much like Jesus did; it's a beautiful thing.
Its one of those rare occasions when love and compassion and genuine care for humanity triumphs over the love of money. That too is a beautiful thing.
Lily’s mission is to bring beauty into the broken place of the world. She teaches people to paint and together they’ve added brightly coloured murals to the walls around the town. Colour has added a brightness and beauty amidst the poverty and filth that is the everydayness of their lives. It's brought inspiration and creativity unthought-of before Lilly arrived on the scene.
There alone, eating berries, lizards, grubs and whatever he could find, the anger that had controlled him for most of his life, began to fade. When he finally emerged, weak and ill, he made a decision to make something of whatever life he had left. With the help of many people he did a TAFE course, went on to university, gained a PhD and is now employed as a university lecturer and is on the Premier’s steering committee looking into ways to help the homeless.
There was something in the silence and tranquillity of the nature and its breathtaking beauty that seeped deep into his soul and helped set him free from a lifetime of anger and violence. The beauty of nature was a transforming power, a healing path that still amazes him to this day.
Beauty, like love, brings the sacred into the ordinary, touches us at the very core of our being, soul-stirring music, a magnificent vista, a compassionate heart. We hunger for beauty. We were created for it. Yet we live in a world so often devoid of it.
But each of us has the wherewithal to weave beauty into the fabric of our everyday lives.
Flickering candles on the dinner table
A note of gratitude under a pillow
A pot of bright red geranium at the front door
An invitation to dinner for someone who has no way of repaying the gift
A bowl of seashells that bring home memories of the beach
A listening ear and a warm hug for a friend whose doing it tough
A home filled with music, laughter and warm hospitality
A bunch of flowers for someone for no reason other than to bring them joy
A few moments in nature every day, a garden, a park, the bush … notice the symmetry of a flower, hear the bird song, feel the tree bark, breathe deeply the oxygen-laden air and revel in the silence.
Seek beauty and embrace its healing power because life without beauty is only half a life.