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...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Will I simply turn away and have a nice cup of tea?

He stands 5' 10." He is reserved and kind. Behind his reserve, is a quick mind and considerable skills that require intellectual acuity as used in games like chess, difficult suduko... He is an athlete. He is a refugee from an intensely repressive African nation. His family is gone; he is 30. His hopes for a life are severely limited with not much hope in the near future. He is my friend.

Imagine being forced to flee your home and country. You travel at night trying to avoid being caught, returned to torture, beaten up. You make it to another continent, but the first nation has no interest in helping people like you. The people speak a Semitic language in a script that is a complete mystery to you.

On the street, hungry and cold with no soup kitchens or temporary housing, you make your way again to a country that though strict about immigration has people who have the decency to treat those in need with kindness and respect.

You've arrived, but the government does not want you. They insist that you go back to the first country. Go back, to what? Imprisonment, life on the streets probably far worse than that in London or New York?

So you remain, hoping that some day things might change.

Five years later nothing has changed. You may not work or go to school. Others move on; you cannot.

Imagine for a moment this was you. What would you do? Would you give up? How would you face each day?

This is the situation for my friend who accompanied me to the airport. Back home in a motel my connecting flight delayed due to storms, I stand waiting for the elevator in the Sleep Inn. A tall young lady tells me about her frustration: waiting, cabs, "I am not used to this. I miss my BMW." I try not to throttle her. I smile and say: "Hey, you could be homeless." Undeterred, she returns to protestations of existential angst. But wait, that could be me, complaining about a temporary discomfort, oblivious to all the pain that is right before me.

But more to the point. a crucal question: What am I myself going to do today to make a difference? Or as one friend said to me, "Will I simply turn away and have a nice cup of tea?"

With affection and respect, I ask you, my dear friend, to join me in considering this same question.


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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.