Another personal experiential coincidence from a couple of months ago, when around World Refugee Day I happened to read a related book and watch a related movie on the topic.
Ever since the Hungarian government started its shameful propaganda campaign against refugees arriving to (or more commonly going through) Hungary refugees of the world were more on my mind than usual. I don’t have any revolutionary ideas or suggestions to the problem on how to balance two opposing factors: It is our humane duty to help the needy, the fallen, downtrodden including those who are forced to leave their war-torn countries vs the limited resources any given time any given government has. In my opinion the Hungarian government is excelling in two things: communication and stealing, but doesn’t provide or even want to work on real and long term solutions for problems. E.g. they spend more money on inciting hatred against refugees than helping them in any meaningful day. However this post is not about politics. Just documenting recognized connections.
I got a notice from the library that the book I reserved has arrived. So I went and picked it up, but looking at the title. “A Time of Miracles” or author, “Anne-Laure Bondoux” or cover it didn’t ring a bell. It may have been recommended to me some time ago by someone but don’t recall it. Having a child protagonist and relatively simple language the book can be considered a young adult book, but it is not for my kids who are younger. Now that I had the book I started to read it, even though I didn’t know why I had it. I finished it it in two sittings, which says a lot about it. (I rarely have time nowadays to read real, paper books: I mostly listen to them in the gym.) It is the story of how a kid, with the help of her caretaker, flees from the turmoil of Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and after and arduous journey becomes a proper French citizen. There is much more to it, of course, including the caretaker’s an the kids real identity, but fundamentally it is the story of one refugees trek across continents, countries, borders and other obstacles. Written in first person singular it is a powerful testament of the randomness of the human condition and causes of sufferings. It really brought the world of refugees closer to me. The unimaginable became personable.
I was halfway through the book when I noticed in my newsfeed that it was World Refugee Day, on June 20. It felt uncanny, because I didn’t know about it, and the day before that I watched, The Good Lie. (IMDB‘s summary: A group of Sudanese refugees given the chance to resettle in America arrive in Kansas City, Missouri, where their encounter with an employment agency counselor forever changes all of their lives.) Reese Witherspoon–as the first reluctant, later dedicated host of the refugees–along with the refugees–some of them playing themselves–provided not just comic moments due to cultural differences, but also an immensity humane story.
I fully recognize that I was manipulated by a Hollywood movie and a bestseller book, but I still shed a few tears during both. There is no grand conclusion to this post, just three small points:
- Pay attention to the humans around you. You never know the story of the other. Particularly if that other is really “other” in the cultural/geographical/religious sense. Yet s/he is just as human as you are, with same basic rights and needs.
- If you are like me (white, male, educated, middle class, living in a safe place) you have a special responsibility to those who are less privileged. Exactly because you/i are so lucky. (See the 4 minute video below)
- Appreciate of what/who you have. Just having had these cultural experiences I do .