Little Frankie

By Joseph J. Mazzella • December 30, 2014

When I was a boy growing up we lived across a river from the main road next to a set of rail road tracks. The only way to our house was across an old, wooden swinging bridge. We only had two neighbors as well. Both lived in houses on the hillside behind our home and both were named Frank. Big Frank was a large, heavy set man who lived with his wife in a small, white house and grew plants that they would sell to home gardeners. Little Frankie lived across from him in a much bigger but much older house. His house, in fact, was a crumbling wreck that was over a hundred years old. Only three small rooms on the far left side of it were still usable and it was in these rooms that Little Frankie lived.

Little Frankie was already nearly 80 years old when I was born. He was a first generation, Italian immigrant who had never married. He had worked on the railroad for over 40 years before retiring but still worked hard every day. Only five feet tall, with gnarled hands and a bent back he could still outwork a twenty year old. I would watch him with amazement slicing down hillsides full of weeds with his large, hand-held scythe. Little Frankie was smelly by today's standards. He had no electricity or running water and would bath once a week with water he boiled on his cast iron stove. I never seemed to mind the smell when I visited him, though. He would fry me eggs and potatoes and we would talk. His English remained broken even after all his years in America but somehow I never had any trouble understanding him.

Little Frankie was also my Godfather. He was at my baptism and pledged to guide me in my spiritual growth. He did this mainly by example. He never lectured or taught. He just showed me how to live with honesty, kindness, and goodness. He showed me the joy of nature. He showed me the peace that can come from just sitting outside on a sunny day. He showed me the oneness with God that can come from a loving life. Little Frankie always had a light in his eyes. It shined deep, right from his soul and you could see it sparkle when he smiled.

When Little Frankie died my Mother was the executor of his will. We found that he had over 40, 000 dollars in the bank, a fortune at the time, from a lifetime of saving. It was sent to his brothers and sisters still living in Italy. We often wondered why he hadn't used it to buy a better home and live more comfortably. Looking back now, however, I think I know the answer. He had all he needed and all he wanted. He had food, shelter, clothes, and warmth both in his house and in his spirit. He needed nothing more to be happy in his life. Like thousands of generations before him, he lived simply and in closeness with his Heavenly Father.

When I look at how much I have now I sometimes think of how much of it is really necessary. In the last 100 years we have gained more wealth and technology than in the entire history of mankind. Yet, in truth, we need very little. A little food, a little shelter, some clothes, people to love, work to do, things to learn, quiet time to think, pray, and connect with God are all we need to live in joy.

The next time you feel weighed down by too much to do or overwhelmed by what you have ask yourself this question. "Is this helping me to love?" If the answer is no then cancel it, turn it off, or toss it in the trash. Learn to live simply. Learn to live lovingly. Learn to live like Little Frankie.


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