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NEW WORLD

WITNESS

There is No Longer
Any Man Who Does
Not Interest Me
After a troubled youth that led him almost to death, a surprising meeting with the
CL experience changed the life of Bob Sampson and his family. This discovery
transformed his machine shop and his home into places of dialogue and welcoming,
eventually leading to hosting kids with addictionsall in response to an embrace he
felt for himself first. A look at one mans journey, lived by the law of love: charity.
B Y S UZANNE T ANZI

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W
hat has been
happening
around his
death has
been a real
miracle for me and my family.These
impossible words in the face of the loss
of a foster son have stopped everyone
in their tracks. Bob Sampson, a ma-
chinist and father of three living in the
Boston area, is a man completely
abandoned to Christ, to the path of
love and adventure made clear
through daily signs. But certainty
did not always hold such a prominent
place in Bobs life. He admits to being
involved in drugs and alcohol long be-
fore his teen years, which were dissi-
pated by substance abuse. When he
was 16, however, he got a job: And I
realized that time had a value, even if
then I was thinking of money. When
I got a girlfriend a little while after that,
I understood that time was not my
ownI had to share it with Sharon.
After Bob and Sharon were married
in 1986, the drinking continued, and
a serious car accidenta telephone
pole impact at 50 mphshook them
both to the core. Bob walked away
from the near-death experience un-
scathed. It was then that I learned
that life is given, and I asked myself,
So, what am I here for?

A ROAD OF BELONGING. As a non-prac-


ticing Methodist, Bob wondered
where he could find some answers,
and his wife suggested RCIA in the
Catholic Church, although there
was no instruction in the parish at
that time. Of course, the minute I
said I would check out the Catholic
Church if they had RCIA (which they
didnt), a new priest came and offered
RCIA! In that place of welcome, the
first concern of the priest was not cat-
echism, but it was friendship, which
A view of Boston. was key to Bobs setting foot on the
road of belonging over the ensu-

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NEW WORLD
WITNESS

ing years. In 1999, he had a sur-


prising meeting with Fraternity of St.
Charles Borromeo priest Fr. Michael
Carvill, who directed him to a School
of Community meeting close by,
focused on The Religious Sense by Fr.
Giussani and led by another FSCB
priest, Fr.Vincent Nagle.He was like
Christ, and it seemed to me that all
his best friends were like the Apos-
tles! What was so different and so at-
tractive to me was that Fr. Vincent
was trying to communicate himself
to us, speaking of his own experience.
I didnt expect that. Through par-
ticipation in School of Community,
Bob recognized Christ present on
my whole pathnot just on Sunday.

CHRISTS TENDERNESS. So the life of


Bob and Sharon took on a new or-
der. Bob points emphatically to
Giussanis words to explain: Mans
awareness is the capacity to order all
things to their destiny. Everything
came under the spotlight of mean-
ing, including Bobs ailing parents, ly meeting group there, using the On alcohol and despair. Bob visited him
sharing the house with the Samp- Human Work booklet by Fr. Gius- in a hospital psych ward after a few
sons and their three daughters. sani. One of those most faithful to suicide attempts.In front of Sami, the
When the home-care situation of his the meetings also began attending only response I had was, Come and
parents seemed impossible, he and School of Community. However, stay with me.Within a few weeks, the
Sharon nonetheless managed to this coworker ran into trouble with apartment previously occupied by
take things one day at a time: the law. Bob was able to inter- Bobs now-deceased parents was tak-
Through the grace of the CL veneas a boss and a friendto have en up by this new member of the
friends, we were able to accompany his sentence significantly reduced. household. He has managed to get his
them to their destiny. Christs ten- Now under house arrest, the man first job at a convenience store,a huge
derness to me enabled me to be ten- has permission to leave his home step for his humanity, and he has
der to them. only for work and for School of been off alcohol for several months,
This embrace began to be shared Community. Bob has remained taking over the AA meetings as the
also at the machine shop where present in different ways for all at new chairman.
Bob works. While others routinely his job, to the point that an atheist Bobs coworker Judy, noticing his
complained and commiserated there commented, If I were to be a gift with troubled youth, asked for
about their jobs, he grew in his part of any religion, it would be help with her nephew, to whom
conviction that the work too was yours, because it is the most real. Bob immediately gave work at the
gratuitously given, and was his place shop. But 19-year-old Brixton could
to be happy. He tried to explain the TO BE LOVED AS WE ARE LOVED. Last not stay awake on the job, due to his
newness in his life and invited one August, the Sampson home became drug use, and was fired. When Bob
and all to School of Community, more of a place of welcome than ever later heard that Brixton was living in
but, in the end, I realized I just had before, when they took in Sami, a 27- a crack house, he invited him and a
to be with them. He started a week- year-old Eritrean man in the grip of friend to dinner, after which both he

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WITNESS

and loved as we are loved. Sharon


adds, If you had told me we would
be doing the things we have been do-
ing this year I never would have be-
lieved it. But when the proposal for
these young men came to us, it was
very easy to say yes, and that can only
be because we have met Christ
through this charism, and because
we continue to see Him every day,
and because we have the support and
love of the community.

IN NEED OF NOTHING. Tragically, on


February 13th, Brixton went to vis-
it an old friend and, since his body
was no longer used to the drugs he
found there, he died of an overdose.
While his family would not allow a
funeral and burial, Sami initiated a
memorial Mass for Brixton, cele-
Above, a Sampson family photo. From left, brated by Bishop Gelineau. There,
Nick, Bob, Abigail, Jessica, Amanda, friends met from near and far to give
Sharon, and Brixton. Upper right, Brixton
making pizza; below, Nick and Jessica. tribute to the short life of this young
man. Those who did not really
know him were asking, Who was
and his friend decided to leave the beautifully. Bob recalls, Brixtons this Brixton? Others spoke of the
crack houseand this brought Brix- friend Jay, dope sick while going transformation of Brixtons Face-
ton to live at the Sampsons as well. through drug withdrawal, said,This book page: from dark and desperate
Bob describes Brixton as over- is the first time in three days I did not to a place of hope, where he posted
flowing with questions. At a chance feel like doing heroine. Those 40 his aspirations to be baptized and to
meeting and dinner with Bishop minutes meant everything to him. go to college. Witnesses, prayers,
Gelineau, a friend of Sami, Brixtons Another friend, Nick, came for din- and true consolation in the friend-
insatiable curiosity ran the religious ner, and ended up moving in two ship and the Eucharist catalyzed
gamut. On the ride home, he asked days later. He told his mother,Now another level of conversion: I real-
the family,So, what is a bishop, any- I have nothing and I am happier ized at that Mass that I was in need
way? His exuberance in his new life than I ever have been before. His of nothing, says Bob.The only way
was infectiouseven Bobs normal- mother shrugged and said to Bob, I could stay in front of all of these cir-
ly solitary and reserved daughter was with little hope, Good luck with cumstances is to know that Christ is
drawn in: Through his openness him. At this point, people began to present. Fr. Giussani says, What is
about his own neediness, she began tell Bob that allowing these two this charity without which we are
to take her own need seriously for troubled teens to live together was a nothing? Mans first object of love
the first time. He became a much- bad idea, to which he replied, Any and of being moved is called God
loved brother to all three of Bobs friendship that is not guided is a bad made flesh for us, and because this
daughters, ages 15, 20, and 22. idea. But a guided friendship can be Christ exists there is no longer any
Brixtons friends came often by in- very beautiful. And he explains man who doesnt interest me. I was
vitation to their home, being treat- further: Never was it our intent to given a companionship that helped
ed one time to a 40-minute piano make these men our project. What me to recognize that I am loved first
concert by Miriam, who explained we wanted was for them to meet by Christ, and then I can love oth-
and played Beethoven and Janacek what we had met; to be embraced ers in the way that I am loved.

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