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...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

People & Places in England

Hello all!  It's been awhile. Spending 11 days in England visiting wonderful friends.  As some are refugees seeking asylum, other have received it, I'll use the initial of their home to identify them. Probably no one official looks here, but just in case - given the www today.

This may or may not interest one. I share it as I feel it is a blessing and a joy in my life. I can do some good and I am reminded of just how good many of us have it.

A- Algeria     E - Ethiopia/Eritrea      C-Congo       I - Iran       S-Senegal    Brit friends by their names.

E - Friday, E met me at Heathrow. He has always taken great care of me coming,going, and during! Monday we headed for North Greenwich to ride the new cable car ride over the Thames - great views.  It is fun to see him enjoying himself in somethign he rarely gets to do. It humbles one to be sure. He is a wonderful young man who is in a very long wait to get his leave to stay in the U.K. prayers please.

I've written of him before.  I've included it here. 

                              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 crucial 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.

Sunday it rained and rained! Enough said!  Monday I went into London and viisited the National Portrait Gallery, the Natyional Gallery - briefly, and St. Martin in the Fields. Put this here in case anyone felt I was missing London!! This is my 7th visit so it is nice to do it in a relaxed manner.

- Zelda my good friend with whom I stay lives 45 minutes east of London in Basildon. She has spent her life caring for others: family, the poor, refugees. As well she has participated in many actions against nuclear weapons and war.  Yesterday, we met I in London for a delightful afternoon of conversation and food. I is a very good many who has lost everything: his freedom, his business, his home.  In his 40's he feels 60 inside. He is positive and told me that the dinner we got him - salmon - was the best he'd ever had.Aa metaphor I think of appreciation and fellowship.  A very good man - Prayers as well, please.

Today I am meeting Steve who had a great career in business and gave it up to help the needy. In his 30's he's quite an inspiration - thoughtful and considerate.  We always have great fun talking about all kinds of topics from politics, the environment, travel to football (soccer).  I enjoy watching a game with him as well as E as I learn much.  Later  E, Zelda and I are having dinner with Peggy a good friend of Zelda's. We always meet to chat and eat.  It's always interesting to listen as I gain a sense of a perspective from across the pond!

E will return to Basildon with me to stay over. No doubt  E, Zelda and I will have a competitive game of scrabble or yahtzee again!!  And we'll do a looooong walk with Zelda.  Good thing I'm in shape now.  They've both commented on the difference in my walking  :-) 

Tomorrow I'm meeting Danny a dear friend who works in business and spends a lot of his time helping others on a weekly basis.  Danny is avid about reading, sport, culture, social justice and life! Our conversations alway range across a variety of topics.  Here again I am able to gain the perspective of a Britain looking at our world.  I am always struck by how narrow some folk's worldview is.  It is indeed a blessing to have such good friends and to be able to spend time with them both at home and abroad.

Friday will likely be a relaxed day in Essex.  I hope to travel around the local towns as I've only really seen Basildon. The weather has been quite rainy, but it looks as it it's clear up by then or sooner.   There is a pub in Basildon square. The staff remember me from previous visits. Here again it is great fun to listen and hear the persepctive of local folks.  Laughter is a readily available commodity!!


Saturday I hope to lunch and visit a museum with Angela - a grand lady whom I met at the Catholic Worker years ago. I still fondly recall her natural use of the term 'higglety pigglety' (Are we going to rearrange the tables & chairs or leave them higglety pigglety?)  Angela is grace, insight and commitment. We have great fun catching up and sharing a local art exhibit as well as a bite to eat.  

In the evening I'm going to treat myself to Mozart's Requiem at St. Martin's in the Fields.  Hopefully E will acconpany me.  Looking forward to it!
Sunday sadly will be my last full day. To church and hopefully catch up with some I've haven't seen: S, the other E and A.  We're doing our best!   There's an older guy, like me (!) who does terrific immitations of Brits etc. He's great fun. Not sure I can get to see him but will try.

Monday accompanied by E,  I fly (well the plane that is) back to the states.

I hope everyone is well & having a good week!  Blessings.  Phil


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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.