The Great Chain

Walking down a busy street, Clara thought about how to get some food to take home.
She was tired and discouraged. No one had helped her. It was late.
She remembered her dear mother was sick and could no longer work to support the family. Her father had passed away.

Clara had not gone to school for several days. As it was just the two of them, she had to keep her mother company. She assisted her in her needs, giving her water, making tea, giving her medicine.
On that day, they had nothing at home. They did not have anything to eat and had run out of medicine. Clara needed to go pick it up at the pharmacy.
After much thought, Clara decided she would go to the streets to ask for help from people. There were many generous people that would help her in this emergency.
She remembered a very nice old lady that was as poor as them, who could maybe keep her mother company. She tucked her mother in and told her that she would leave for a while.
- Go, dear. Do not restrain yourself because of me. You have not left the house for some time and that worries me.
Dona1 Maria lived nearby. Clara was praying that she would be at home. The lady opened the door, smiling. Clara explained the situation to her and asked:
- Could you keep my mother company for a few hours? I have to go out and I cannot leave her alone!
 - Of course, Clara. I will go immediately. You can go do what you need to do without hurry. I'll stay with your mother for as long as necessary.
Clara thanked her and headed for the city. Even though she was not accustomed to begging, the girl was determined to get help from people. However, it was not easy. Embarrassed but equipped with courage, Clara started to address the passers-by:
- A little help, please!
But they were all running, rushing, with no time to stop. Many responded rudely, making her even more embarrassed, others treated her with contempt, some with indifference, and others did not even see her.
With a heavy heart, Clara held in the urge to cry. She looked at mothers that passed by with their well dressed, happy, satisfied children. Those children had sweets in their hands or were having delicious-looking ice creams, and Clara felt a great pain inside.
She had never been able to go for a walk with her mother, who was always working to buy what was necessary for their home. Now, not even that. They had nothing to eat, not even bread.
The hours had passed and the girl was exhausted and hungry.
Clara decided to return home. She stopped at the pharmacy, bought her mother's medicine, which the pharmacist sold to her on credit, and set out for home.
 On the way home, Clara begged help from Jesus. Christmas was approaching and the city was so beautiful, filled with colorful decorations and lights, but she, however, felt sad.
"Help us, dear Jesus! You who were also so poor, who was born in a stable and cradled in a manger, help us! I pray not for myself but for my dear mother who is ill. May she be healed and return to work and to smile? May she at least not lack food so that she can get out of bed and walk? "
As it was already dark and the streets deserted, little Clara let the tears run down her face, washing her soul. When she got home, she could sense the good smell of food. She wondered.
Everything was neat and clean. She rushed into the room, worried about leaving her mother for so long. Dona Maria had just finished serving dinner to the infirm woman, who was now cheerful and smiling. Clara apologized:
- Dona Maria! I took too long and abused your kindness. I'm sorry.
With a broad and happy smile, the lady replied:
- Do not worry, my dear. I loved spending the afternoon here with your mother. We had a good laugh recalling events from the past. And you how were it? Did you manage to do what you needed?
- No, Dona Maria. I could not do what I planned. I could only buy my mother's remedy. But how did you make this soup? We had nothing at home!
The lady, old and experienced, had understood the family's predicament and the girl's concern, so smiling she reassured her:
- Clara, I am very poor but have good friends. I sent word to some people and then the results started to emerge. Come see!
 Dona Maria led Clara to the kitchen and in one corner there was a large box with food: rice, beans, cooking oil, flour, salt, coffee, pasta and more. The girl saw, with surprise, that there were even cookies!
Not holding back the tears, Clara hugged her friend, thanking her for the donations. The lady replied, moved:
- Thank Jesus, Clara. It was Him who put love in the hearts of the people who helped us.
Embracing her, the girl agreed:
- I know it was Jesus, Dona Maria. He answered my prayers. However, it was through your hands that He helped us. Thank you.
Everything changed after that day in that house. Dona Maria's friends started to visit them and became their friends.
By Christmas day, Clara's mother was healed and working. All had returned to normal.
 They gathered all the families and decided to have a big party to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And, as it could only be, they celebrated the “birthday boy”, helping others in need and struggling at that time.
And Clara understood that everything in life has to have love. That, loving people, we are never alone. That, transcending ourselves and sharing our problems, we get help, as well as that the time will come when we can also lovingly help others in a great chain of fraternity and charity to our neighbors.

(Psychographed by Celia Xavier de Camargo on November 29, 2005.)

Translation: Johnny Silveira
1 In Brazilian society, Dona is a term of respect that is used with the woman's first name.
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