Loureiro, the shoemaker who loves books and wines, and I had just finished lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in the small and charming village at the foot of the mountain that is home to the monastery. Knowing that we would still talk for some time more, the waiter, whom we have known for a long time, left a pot of fresh coffee on our table. Suddenly, we were surprised by the entrance of Paola, a dear niece of the cobbler. She had stopped by just for a cup of coffee, and to think about some personal issues, and was happy to see us there. She sat with us and said it was good we were there, because she wanted to know her uncle’s opinion about something that had been bothering her in the past few months. I motioned to leave, but Paola kindly said that wasn’t necessary. Next, she said that, as the uncle already knew, she had been dating Giovanni for almost four years. Initially, it had all been joy and discoveries, travels and full harmony. Over time, things had gone astray, and more and more they were having misunderstandings.
She said that in this period she had become more interested in spirituality. She had started to study esotericism, meditate and practice yoga. She said that right at the time she had started to go deeper into inner development, their arguments got worse. Her interests and friends had changed. Giovanni became jealous of her new lifestyle, and they quarreled about situations that only existed in his imagination. She had been trying hard to bring him to this new, wonderful world that little by little she was discovering, but he had been reacting to that. Paola knew how good it was to help everyone, and recognized her boyfriend had tremendous potential for growth, because of his good heart. However, the more she tried, the more he rejected the idea. Things were getting worse, and in the past weekend, they had an argument and he had spoken harsh words to her.
Without being asked, the attentive waiter placed another cup on the table. Loureiro poured us coffee and said: “To help whom we meet on the paths of life is a commitment we have with the universe. Not out of a sense of obligation or fear of consequences, but in understanding that the love I have within me should grow in accordance with the expansion of my awareness. Or there will be no evolution. In fact, we are all brothers as we have the same origin; in essence, we are one, according to the wisdom of the seed that is split in thousands and, after turning into flower and fruit, becomes seed again, whole in its parts.” He sipped some coffee and added: “However, each one flourishes at their own pace, according to the wisdom and love each one has in that stretch of existence, depending on how alert they are, pressured by strong emotional influences, social-cultural conditionings and past experiences, often disastrous. Moreover, there is the advice of individual and collective shadows, such as fear, envy, greed, jealousy, amongst others, with a delusional offer of advantages and protection. It will be a fine battle to transcend oneself.”
Paola said that perhaps they should go their separate ways. Loureiro looked at her sweetly and replied with a rhetorical question: “Should they let selfishness expand its roots and influence? This is the most common advice the shadows give. The Path is the road of light, on which love is course and destination. We move forward according to the precise degree of expansion of our awareness coupled with loving capability, because wisdom without love creates disappointments. To understand the size of the heart, it suffices to pay heed to the love we are able to give. What we cannot give, in fact, we do not have or we are not.” The niece said she was lost, and did not know what to do. The cobbler was didactic: “Virtues illuminate our best choices.”
The looks of Paola showed her will to know more. Her uncle continued with his explanation: “For those who want to help, they must have patience and respect for themselves and the other; and the same grade of humility, compassion and firmness.” He sipped some more coffee and said: “Just like a mother has the sacred task of pushing her kid on the rails of goodness, time will come she must cease pushing so that he can get momentum by himself and, conducting his own engine, decide the destination that suits him best. Similarly, out of love, a mother does not abandon a defenseless offspring until time comes for them to take the lessons of life by themselves, so she does not raise a weak person. Love requires wisdom for one to sow it best in the deserts of the world. It is for those who give and those who receive. This is the art of helping others out.”
The niece said she did not know how to apply this theory to her engagement to Giovanni. The cobbler was emphatic: “The most important is to bear in mind that love is, and will always be, a tool of liberation, not of domination, for all those involved.” Paola asked him to be clearer. The shoemaker obliged: “We always wish the best for those we love. Hence, we give reasons and justifications to illuminate the destiny of the loved one. However, oftentimes, the other has their beliefs, desires, dreams, the way they see things. You must accept they are entitled to do that, to write their own history, to set the course of their journey, and to all the expectations directly connected to the lessons suitable to them at that moment in life”.
He made a brief pause and then continued to reason: “This is where the virtues play their role. Humility is necessary for us to understand we are not “the owners” of truth or managers of the life of others; we have our own inner limitations and much to learn, including that the differences among people are the workshop where humankind is shaped.”
“Humility, next to simplicity, is also essential, so one does not forget, at any time, that helping others does not make us superior to those we help. Everyone, at some point in time, needs support, whether material or emotional. One must be very careful so that helping is not an exercise of vanity and should sincerely dismiss any gesture of reciprocity. Gratitude should not be turned into debt. Actual help is never associated with creditors or debtors. Love will only flourish is there are no conditions, fees or dues in return for the action performed.”
“The virtues of compassion and patience should also be present, as a reminder that each one moves in accordance with one’s capabilities, because not passing through a door may suggest that is isn’t possible to see; furthermore, there is a huge gap between seeing the door and being able to pass through it; each one should do it at their own time and pace, their pains and pleasures. Kindness is necessary so that help is not a burden for he who receives it. Sensibility is important for one to know when to start and when to stop, and the limits between one and the other. Finally, respect. We tend to mistake this subtle virtue for diverse obsolete, ancient emotions, such as fear or reverence. Contrary to what many may think, respect has nothing to do with not offending or humiliating. These are shallow situations, easy to be dismissed, incapable of reaching the person who has the virtues of humility and compassion within. The consideration we have for the freedom of others is the perfect mirror that reflects the understanding we have about ourselves. Respect for oneself means not granting anyone power over one’s choices; on the other hand, and as virtuous consequence, not exerting any form of domination on the life of others is the perfect exercise of respect for the world.”
“Finally, the most important, and yet the most forgotten detail: helping others does not mean choosing for them.”
“When you are going to help, remove from your mind the wicked idea that ‘it is either my way or no way’. This is the imposition of one’s will over the will of the other. It no longer helps and becomes subjection. It is common to err on the method, despite our best intentions. Advise, guide, reach out, hold on your lap in the direst moments of need, encourage solo flights, because dignity is strongly related to one’s wings. Don’t ever establish a relationship of subordination, so that it is true, actual help. Help out materially and financially when necessary but bear in mind that emotional support is extremely rarer and more valuable. There is no question a heartfelt hug or a comforting talk is more valuable than a check. Above all remember that the most noble walkers are those who realize the need of others for help without them having to ask for it. Always help quietly, because boasting about the help one gives is not love, but sheer ostentation. On the other hand, lovingly accept if the other is not open and refuses to receive help. Understand, with no hint of resentment, that this is a trait of his. This may be due to a lack of understanding or even a moment of introspection, quietness and silence, the winter in which the bear hibernates in the darkness of the cave to digest all it has experienced in life and prepare itself for the spring of life. Just keep the door of your home and your heart open, in case they change their mind.”
The niece said she had never thought that helping out could be so complex. The shoemaker smiled and replied: “Helping out is not complex; just the opposite, it is quite simple. Notwithstanding, it is rich in virtues and, in order to be complete, it must be devoid of any shadow. Can you understand why the other is essential in our lives? Charity sets many virtues in motion and improves the self. This understanding allows us to realize that he who helps gains more than he who was helped. Even though plenitude, which is translated as the achievement of happiness, peace, freedom, unconditional love, and dignity. This is an internal construct, independent from the external world, but to which we need people who will enhance our virtues that, in turn, will illuminate our choices, the unique tools for individual, and henceforth planetary evolution.”
Paola agreed with all the uncle had said, but she still did not know how to act with her boyfriend, in face of such quarrels and offenses. Loureiro furrowed his brow and said, seriously: “We are all travelers, bound to different stations according to their vibrational affinity. Because of this energetic synchrony and out of need for evolution, there will be times in which we will be alone; at other times, we will have the company of others bound to the same destination and at the same pace. What matters is to perceive the value and beauty of both scenarios. While synchrony remains, we will journey the path together; once it gets out of tune, each one should seek their own music, lessons and dreams. Hence the path is crossed, in a solidary and solitary way, with the perfect lesson that we do not depend on anyone for our heart to sing sincere songs of love and happiness; however, we need the other to help tune our personal instrument, essential to the great symphony of the universe: the spirit, the true identity of each one of us.”
He arched his lips in a discreet smile and said: “You are free to stay, but you are also free to go. Of course, this also goes to Giovanni. This is a simple and yet beautiful lesson: when a decision is good for one, it will also be for the other; if there is misunderstanding, it will be short-lived, a reflex of a misaligned ego.”
“Just be careful not to deceive yourself by disguising your selfish desire of wanting the other next to you at any cost, under the excuse of helping them out. The unbearable, painful weight of undue, and therefore oppressive, influences over the choices of others will lead, as an unavoidable reaction, to the vanishing of joy. The lightness of relationships, even though is there is still the yearning that reveals the love that has transmuted into another stage for having reached its limit, is always the best, more palatable solution”. He winked an eye for his niece and spoke, as if telling a secret: “In order for one to stay, it must be good; in order to leave, too. There is always a choice powerful enough to take off a huge backpack full of stones from our back. Your heart knows what choice that is. Be brave to listen to your heart and be happy!”
Paola’s gaze was lost in a distant place. Without saying a word, she gave her uncle a big hug and left. Despite the silence, I was sure that conversation did her good. The smile she carried on her face wasn’t there when she arrived.
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.