The experience of the community created by Erasmo Figini
Erasmo Figini is an important Italian interior designer and father of four children, who bear his surname. He claims to have discovered the true meaning of fatherhood only through the experience of becoming a foster parent and adoption.
The first was a five-year-old boy suffering from AIDS. Then came a second, and then a third, and then others, and today Figini hosts eleven children and adolescents in his home. He has lost count of how many children he and his wife have managed to welcome in Como, the Lombard city where, with close friends and entrepreneurs, he created La Cometa, a center of incessant activity at the service of young people who need a point of reference. These include after-school programs for local kids, a place for socialization and help for parents in need, recently even artisan workshops where young people learn a trade. Figini entrusts them with the construction of furniture, restorations, the making of objects, where these young people learn to make with their curative hands, which helps them to heal very deep wounds.
In this way as well, that is, through the supervision at artisan centers, Figini broadens his role as a putative father. This all began after the birth of two biological children and the adoption of those first two children who arrived unexpectedly into his life. He states, “It is precisely the foster children who have given me a great lesson on fatherhood that is similar to the experience of Saint Joseph: children, even natural ones, are not yours, they are entrusted to you and you as a parent are a simple instrument for giving love to a unique and unrepeatable being”. He explains during a break from his commitment to La Cometa, “I learned this with a sense of enormous amazement when my first foster child, then adopted, arrived. To feel that I loved him as my own was a revelation,” he continues. “A child comes to you, you love him or her with a merciful love but it is not a possession, this is most important because it is a free love that gives freedom”. Because a child “is a sacred guest” (in the Greek meaning of the term) they are the one who dwells in your home and to whom you must make room.
The second important lesson about fatherhood, says Erasmo Figini, is having to understand that “a child must rest on our certainties”. What does that mean? “This is especially true when the age of rebellion comes. A son wants to challenge his father's rules but the father must not allow the son to unhinge them. There comes with patience the time when that son will come to say that you were right and that rebellion of his serves to verify if what you were advocating made sense”. For this reason, Figini believes that it is wrong to assume an overly friendly attitude. “Reversing one's moral certainties in order to maintain a relationship with a child is wrong. You think you're getting closer and instead you lose authority, the child no longer believes you”.
Finally, Erasmo Figini does not theorize about perfect fatherhood, the father who sacrifices himself unceasingly for his children remains, in a sense, within the great perimeter of the human. “I'm sorry that the figure of the father is massacred these days. The kids who attend La Cometa are the first to look for the precise parental roles, mother and father, which they need. However, the important thing is the quality of the time you dedicate to them; they need to know that you are there even when you are not physically. Foster children especially bring up the theme of suffering, of the lack of love felt in the original family: “There are no words but embraces. In life, the one who hugs the hardest wins. The merciful authoritativeness is not scandalized in front of anything, it does not modify habits and lifestyles in order to welcome but gives the children the certainty that the family welcomes and thinks of him. This happens when one understands that life is not about going where one's heart takes us, but about assuming the responsibility of being a father and a mother and carrying it out without selfishness or second thoughts”. Figini also reflects on the marriage relationship, stating, “Since it is almost unthinkable to think of loving each other always between a man and a woman, here comes the sacrament of marriage where the third is God who accompanies us to overcome the inevitable storms of life. This communal relationship, this solid certainty, is what children seek,” the designer continues, referring once again to children who carry within themselves the wound (“eternal”, he says) of not having experienced that certainty and that love within the couple that gave birth to them. Therefore, the habit of living within a family that is not their own, but which is endowed with the intrinsic characteristics of giving love, can help to build within the wounded children the hope that all is not lost.
Without giving in, warns the founder of La Cometa, to the idea that parental roles are interchangeable: “It is fundamental that each defends the role of the other, but we cannot be mothers as men or vice versa. A mother is an educator, but in mediation, and I feel it particularly when my wife is the bearer of the requests of the children in foster care and in some way brings me a message that has already been rationalized, smoothed out. As a father, I feel that my task is to educate people to stay in the world, to live every detail with truth and sincerity, to grasp the meaning of everything and to take things seriously without being afraid because true life, for us believers, is fundamental, it's the one we will face later”.
by Laura Eduati