Hope for a Human Life

 

Ute Craemer

 

Once upon a time there was a child who lived in heaven, where it rested a very long time and slept. The greatest brilliance came from the area around Godís throne. But the light shone so brightly that it was blinding, so the child of heaven never went near Godís throne.

††††††††††† One day the child awoke, looked down and saw something terrible, pitch-black clouds, iridescent violet waves, fire battling against water, lightning flashes that destroyed houses, burning forests, and in the midst of this chaos the child saw people trying to save others.

††††††††††† The boy was so frightened by all this that he called his Guardian Angel and asked:

What does the chaos down there mean? Where is this abomination happening?

- On earth, was the Guardian Angelís answer.

- And what does it mean? The child wanted to know.

- The people who live on the Earth have become alienated from each other. What you see are the consequences of the discord and the egoism of the people who live there. They are impatient and want to have everything immediately, each one thinks only of himself. You see what has come of it: the forests have burned, the land has dried out, the seas have become polluted, the animals are dying out, the birds can no longer fly, the fish disappear and many people live in wretched huts in dire poverty while others live in beautiful stone palaces.

- Thatís terrible, cried the child. But what is going to happen? They will all die in such poverty, there wonít be anything to eat, no clean water or air, no fertile land and no people who love each other!

- Yes, said the Guardian Angel, it looks like the end is near. I donít know either what is going to happen. I will ask the Archangel Michael.

The guardian angel went to where the light shone brighter, where he met the Archangel Michael and said:

- The heavenly child asked me how it would be possible to continue to live on Earth.

The Archangel answered:

- Tell the heavenly child he should betake himself to the Earth and fight against the chaos. If he does that I will stand by him. I cannot defeat evil alone; human beings must help.

The Archangel returned to the child and said:

- This is what the Archangel told me: If you want to save the Earth you must betake yourself there. The Archangel Michael will help you to fight against the evil you encounter. He needs your help to defeat evil.

- In that darkness and chaos! cried the child fearfully.

- Be courageous, said the angel, do not think about it too long, and just dive into all the misery and the Archangel Michael will stand by you. Have courage!

The midnight light filled the heavenly child and it drew courage. Then it began its journey. In the middle of the favela, in a poor hut, a child was born. It was called Sergio. His mother was very happy when she saw the child. It seemed to her as though light encircled his head. But when Sergio opened his eyes he saw something ugly. He didnít know what it was. His body began to ache and he had stomach pains.

- Where is the light, where is the warmth that enveloped me in heaven? All was ugly and loud, the air was heavy, mosquitoes buzzed around him and rats scurried across the floor. Sergio began bitterly to cry.

- What will become of me?

Then his mother came and took him in her arms and he felt protected. And thus he grew.

One day he became aware of something terrible: his mother disappeared for hours at a time. He waited and waited; gradually he began to lose hope that she would ever return. Then he realized that she had to work all day in order to buy milk and food for the children. No one had time for him. Slowly he became angry, bitterly angry that his mother had to work all day in order to eat some rice and beans at night. Sometimes he remembered the wonderful times in heaven. But he had completely forgotten the Archangel Michael.

One day a boy from the neighboring hut said to him:

- Do you know what I saw today? We celebrated Saint Michaelís Day. Saint Michael was there and he carried the scales of good and evil. Each child took a piece of crystal and laid it on the scale of the good. And do you know what happened? The scale of the good became heavy, much heavier than the evil side. We children of the kindergarten did it, together with the Archangel Michael.

††††††††††† Sergio remained still as he listened to the boy. A memory awoke in his mind and he sensed immediately: I want to attend that school too. The next day he spoke with the teacher and since then went to the school every day. Many things from his heavenly past that he had forgotten were woken anew. Sergio became happier and more settled every day. The light began to shine again around his head.

††††††††††† He saw much evil outside the school, however.

††††††††††† There were days when he was all light and love. On other days he was like a wild bull. What angered him so? He didnít know himself. We knew though. What he saw and heard was not like his past. He saw people die, he saw how people killed or mistreated other people, he heard people curse or speak nonsense, and how they got drunk in bars. Then a thief crept through a hole in the wall of his house in order to steal food and kicked his sister. On the streets he saw accidents and burning cars and on television he saw violence.

††††††††††† Was this what the child had hoped for in this world? Often the heavenly light went out and his face turned dark.

††††††††††† At the next Saint Michaelís Day celebration he told the teacher:

- I would like to play the prince and fight against the dragon.

- Why, Sergio?

- Because I want to defeat evil. When I am grown up I will fight against evil.

††††††††††† As he said this a ray of light shone on his face. And like a flash he remembered: Yes, it is so: I am on the Earth to fight against everything I see that is ugly and false.

††††††††††† After he said that Sergio made a beautiful drawing of the Archangel Michael slaying the dragon with his sword.

††††††††††† The years went by. When Sergio was nine years old life in the favela became noticeably worse. The women were hungry, the children too. Many died from diseases such as measles, pneumonia and dysentery. The time came again for the Saint Michaelís Day celebration. The teachers prepared for it. This, however, was a very special celebration. For the first time in the whole world the celebration took place in a favela, among the poor huts. But in the hall made for the celebration it was all marvelously beautiful. Flowers in spiral form decorated the wooden floor, candles lighted the hall and high above beamed the Archangel. Many, many children of all ages, along with their parents, admired the flowers and the candles. The teachers sang and the children, in pairs holding hands, passed through the spiral of flower, picked a crystal, came out of the spiral and laid the crystal on the scale of good.

- How beautiful it is, I thought.

††††††††††† Suddenly a shot was heard outside. It was a criminal who lived in the favela. Then it was quiet again, the music played and the children continued to lay their crystals on the scale. And the Archangel put the amethyst on the scale of the good, so it would win.

††††††††††† The celebration was over. Everyone left. But Sergio returned to the hall, looked up to the Archangelís place and asked, wondering:

- Where is he?

- He has gone.

- Where? To the favela?

- Yes, to the favela. First he went to the favela, and then he rose into heaven.

††††††††††† During the celebration we ask the Archangel Michael for strength and light. We need this island of peace and light in order to withstand the world of misery.

††††††††††† Sergio grew older, he entered the world, fell deep into the abyss, got lost in the forest. Without losing his courage he climbed to the highest mountain. But where did the courage come from? Sometimes it seemed as if he wanted to challenge the world because he didnít love it; for him who had come from heaven, it was too evil, too ugly. But sometimes one had the impression that the Archangel Michael himself comforted him: Test your strength, your ability, have spirit! At other times it seemed that he would sink in the vortex of life and never escape from this hell. But when he did find his way out of the abyss the pure light shone once more.

†††††††††††

Many years later, when Sergio was grown up, he returned to the favela where he first saw the light of day. He started to build houses for the people of the favela, he showed them how the houses should be furnished and embellished; and he taught them to love. He cared especially for the forgotten ones: the aged, the cripples, but also the delinquents and the drug addicts, the criminals and the pickpockets.

††††††††††† One day Sergio died and went back to heaven. The Guardian Angel asked him:

- What have you brought from the Earth?

- I have a present for the Archangel Michael, was the answer.

- What is it?

- A little bowl full of pieces of crystals for the scale of the good.

- How did you obtain it?

- I always tried to understand people, to love and not to mistreat them. I never condemned anyone, Sergio added.

††††††††††† Sergio handed the bowl to the Archangel.

- Did you never injure anyone or act falsely?

- Yes, Sergio admitted, forgive me. I learned through my own mistakes to understand people better, to love and not to condemn.

††††††††††† The Archangel Michael blessed him and laid the pieces of crystal on the side of the good.

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© 2002 Ute Craemer

Ute Craemer is the initiator of the social work in ďMonte AzulĒ, and other favelas (slums) in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This tale is excerpted from the new Ebook of essays, Rich in Spirit (Life in the Favelas of Brazil), now available in the Southern Cross Review Ebook Library.