Joining hands in prayer before a meal always seemed quaint to me. I never experienced it personally, but it’s a recurring cliche, especially in some films, and I always thought of it as a provincial form of religiousness that I didn’t identify with.
Then something in me changed. I learned to be grateful, and while I still don’t speak my prayers aloud in reverence, I silently give thanks to life for another warm and tasty meal. I thank the friend who cooked it for me, and Emanuele, for being next to me, sharing these moments with me.
Being thankful is a habit, which, if developed, will never abandon you. If you allow yourself to value what you would have otherwise taken for granted, you’ll easily find yourself being constantly grateful. Gratitude is universal, and holds no flag or religion.
Being grateful for something automatically sets you in the right frame to reciprocate, setting off a surprisingly simple chain of goodwill.
RETURNING THE FAVOR
I love the ocean, in any color or temperature. Walking down a remote, solitary stretch of sand is my notion of bliss.
To stare out onto slow-moving waves that transform into ethereal foam as they crash onto the shoreline…
I could spend hours watching birds as they fly along the horizon or as they forage along the shoreline.
These moments serve to connect me with something much larger than myself, something that embraces me and provides me with comfort.
And I love sharing the joy in Emanuele’s eyes as he gleefully steps out of the water after a long surfing session.
For us, the ocean is like coming home, a regenerative and bountiful experience.
I came to the conclusion that this bountiful nature bestowed upon us, which asks nothing in return, still had to be reciprocated through some kind of gesture of my own, an action that could reflect the gratitude I felt towards the ocean and its shores.
A DROP IN THE OCEAN
I’m not an important person, I don’t have money to invest in any form of concrete help, but I have love to share and goodwill. So, I started collecting plastic, in general, and lost toys, more specifically.
I didn’t have to do much; I simply joined the thousands of people around the world that carry bags and pick up waste along the beaches.
Without effort, almost miraculously, my eyes opened to a new reality, my paradigm shifted and not collecting plastic became the exception.
BUSINESS BECOMES PLEASURE
Since I can’t always haul huge bags of waste on my own, I distinguish this new hobby into two separate instances.
When I am with Emanuele: I systematically collect any plastic waste we find.
When I am alone, I focus on toys.
OPEN YOUR EYES
Over the years, I must have collected hundreds (maybe thousands) of small lost toys: tiny airplanes half-buried in the sand, dolls hanging from the branches of a shrub or hidden in plain sight, right where anyone could have seen them, but didn’t…
Because, when I tell others about this passion of mine, of scavenging beaches sadly littered with abandoned toys, many can’t believe what I’m saying.
Their eyes simply have yet to attune to this new world of color: waste transforms into a wonderful set of discoveries, abandoned objects breathe new life through a dash of ingenuity and creativity.
THE ENCHANTED WORLD
The feeling I get, every time I recover a new toy, is of holding a small treasure in my hands. One that holds within it distant memories and positive vibes. Each item whispers to me a story, whether it’s through the faded wings of a fairy or the proud gaze of a legless soldier.
And thus, my luggage inevitably ends up full of colored marbles, toy cars with no wheels, mismatched Legos. I take them home, wash them, store them and try to give them a new life.
Sometimes a child will fall in love with a mangy teddy bear that I recovered god-knows-where, and will adopt it and take it home. We have vases in our living room that are chock-full of colored balls that have traveled the boundless oceans; the shelf in our attic is a New Lilliput populated by crippled and faded characters with unflappable printed smiles.
HOPE AS AN ANCHOR
This is the invisible world I wander into whenever things get too big and scary to deal with out there.
This is my imaginary refuge, where I am not afraid.
Growing older, physical frailty, and the uncertainty of the future do not scare me, as long as I have a world of my own that is full of light, hope and a dash of madness.
Follow your flashes of madness, do something childish that makes you laugh out loud, cultivate your own inner world, the secret one, the one that no one can ever take away from you.
And finally, don’t forget: whenever you can, look at the world around you and pick up the plastic.