What would you do if your child was a victim of gun violence?
What if he died because of his injuries?
What if this happened thousands of miles away from your home?
Tough to imagine, isn’t it?
In 1994, a seven year old boy from California was traveling on the A3 between Salerno and Reggio Calabria with his family when their rental car was mistaken for a car carrying stolen jewelry. Shots were fired at their car and young Nicholas Green was shot. Two days later he died.
His parents made the impossibly brave and generous decision to donate their son’s organs and seven Italians, four of whom were teenagers, were helped or saved in the process.
The Nicholas Green story was a major news event throughout Italy and at least one movie has been made in the United States to retell this story. Organ donations have tripled since Nicholas and his family led the way in what is called “The Nicholas Effect.”
Most people in Italy know who Nicholas is. There are numerous children in Italy who have been named after him. There is even a park dedicated to his honor in downtown Catanzaro.
I encourage you to read “The Nicholas Effect – A Boy’s Gift to the World.” The book is out of print, but a shorter version has been reissued online with the consent of the publishers. His father, Reg Green also has a new book out, “The Gift that Heals.” Sample chapters are available online.
I promise you it isn’t a story you will easily forget, but the lessons of openness and the love for humanity shown by the Green family should probably be remembered.
So, on the anniversary week of the canonization of Calabria’s own, Saint Gaetano Catanoso, I’ll be thinking of another one of Italy’s young heroes. And if you watch those videos … I bet you’ll be thinking of him, too.