Books Worth a Look

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - This book is a must read. Better than anything else I've read, it takes you vividly into the life of a person in the 3rd world who has no choice but to escape. It is brilliantly written & works well as an audio book. Often I've sent info about the wonderful refugees I've met in Europe. We know only so much of their plight as it is painful for them to recall much less live through again by recounting it. But over time it is clear what they've lived through. This book is excellent as you discover the horrors of their world. Somewhat how to me, it is like being in Europe near a Concentration Camp. One has an obligation to visit it. 'Never to Forget.' In this case, to have our eyes opened.
  • Garbage King by Eliz Laird - The book is set on the streets on Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia and here lives Mamo and his sister Tiggist. When Mamo's "uncle" offers a job, he soon sets out on a bus to work. Little does he know that he is actually being sold into slavery...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dorthy Day House Community Meeting: The Refugees & the Catholic Worker Staff

Meetings. Who likes them? We had the community (house) meeting last night - all are required to attend. Agenda? Reminders: clean up, recycling, laundry issues, announcements, drinks & social afterwards.

I wish you could have been with me. Around the room sat 2 Iranians, 1 Estonian, 1 Eritrean, 1 Algerian and 1 Congolese plus Zelda, Martin & me.

All politely listened. Some questions came out. Then the social.

It was the most incredible experience to be in a small living room with these 7 refugees and witness such goodness. Good men each, they are respectful and supportive of one another. Some speak English fairly well; others haltingly. They like many of us in a foreign tongue often feign understanding, Still the atmosphere was alive with warmth, good humor, and camaraderie.

One of the Iranians bought beer, juice & chips (they call them crisps) for all. We sat and talked & laughed. I kid one of the Ethiopians and the Algerian about being '”Ladies men. They enjoy it.” Thus we bantered and kidded. The generous Iranian (these guys cannot be hired legally, so what they can make is well below regular wages.) would periodically call out “Pheel” & follow with a question as to language or America.

Soon an arm wrestling contest ensued - mercifully it was almost time for my weekly call to daughter & her fiancée.

There are no favorites or whipping boys as we have so often experienced. There are clearly well liked individuals and at least one curious dude - not their word - who is self-comical & a bit pretentious w/o intending to be. Then there is one other who is funny because he is too cautious and so deferential that you cannot help but smile. YET, no one pokes fun. Come to think of it I have yet to hear any gossip.

A Canasta game began and others broke into comfortable small groups to recount experiences, cultural differences, English ways etc.

I keep thinking that if business, political and religious leaders would live & work among people like these for a couple of weeks, they might possibly take a different approach.

Well I fear words have eluded me to get the feel, experience across. I hope some of the magic of the evening came through.

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Thoughts on the amazing people I get to meet.

Rich, my 19 year old friend, soon to be Franciscan and recent community member at Haley House in Boston. An article he wrote.