A Tribute to Daniel Klein
Beyond the Scope of My Imagination
We all sat quietly in a circle listening to each other’s concerns, ideas or just general sharing of thoughts. We had just hired a new custodian and like all new hires, we encouraged him to stand and tell us a bit about himself. Nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to hear. Pierre was a refugee from Burundi and being the office manager of the church, I advocated highly on his behalf to hire him. Here is what he shared that day.
Pierre stood, cleared his throat, looked around the room a bit nervously and spoke softly.
“Yes, my name is Pierre and I arrived in Tucson from a refugee camp in Tanzania.” He then went on to explain that this was the third or fourth camp he and his family were moved to before finally being allowed to come to the United States. Before finding relative safety in the series of refugee camps he explained in gruesome detail how many of his family members had died including some of his own children. “They would come into our villages with machetes and just chop away.” He then made a chopping motion with his hand. He explained they did not care how accurate they were. They just wanted to do as much damage as possible in hopes of eventually killing everyone they saw. Limbs were chopped off, heads separated from their bodies and so on. When he spoke of how his daughter was killed, everyone was looking down, eyes filled with tears.
Pierre spoke so matter-of-factly about all the horrific events but when he spoke of his daughter, he couldn’t continue and he got quiet for a moment. He then cleared his throat again and he said “Yes, so they let us come here and I am very happy to be here. I will try my best for you and work hard.” He then sat down and we all sat in silence for a few moments. The pastor cleared his own throat and thanked Pierre for sharing his story.
A Common Good
For the remainder of that day when Pierre spoke and all the days since I will often reflect upon Pierre’s words. No matter how bad my day may seem, there are those who have it much worse and as I mentioned before, the horrors that some of our fellow humans are forced to endure daily are beyond the scope of my imagination. When I need perspective or grounding, I think of Pierre’s story. But I think of more than that. Despite it all, this incredible man rises each day at the crack of dawn with a beaming smile and a friendly hello to anyone and everyone who comes near him. He has made it his goal to help others to the best of his abilities and work toward a common good and that is a beautiful thing.I am a gardener, writer and photographer and I have often said that this forms the perfect trifecta of my own human being. As a gardener, I am always searching for books, magazines and television programs that provide inspiration. It is the latter where I discovered the brilliant, evocative and absolutely inspiring Victory Garden’s Edible Feast narrated and directed by chef Daniel Klein. I had set a DVR series recording but there hasn’t been anything recorded for quite a long time so to quench my desire for more inspiration, I called on Google to tell me more about Daniel Klein. I started off by having a look at the Perennial Plate. To my absolute joy, I discovered there are over 100 short films available. Each is “dedicated to socially responsible adventurous eating”. Perfect! I exclaimed aloud as I began watching films at random.
So, what is it about Daniel’s film making I like so much? Well, many things but overall, it is the way I feel after watching one of his stories unfold. I am so engrossed I sit with my hands folded and the tips of my index fingers touching my lips. In most instances, tears will inevitably well up in my eyes. There is an art to human being and it is often the simplest things that tend to connect us all. Our commonalities far outweigh our differences and as you watch anything created by Daniel you are reminded of this. Daniel is a self-professed food focus filmmaker and when you think about, nothing brings us all together more than food. Before proceeding, if you have not seen any of Daniel’s films, I recommend watching a couple. You could do it now or wait until you finish reading this post.
to Influence People
If you read this blog regularly, you may have a pretty good idea of who I am and what I stand for: promoting the ideal philosophies of compassion, caring and kindness, supporting inclusion as opposed to exclusion and overall simply trying to spread messages of love. I must admit, I find myself disheartened a lot of the time when I learn about of the atrocities plaguing our world today. It was George Michael that said “it’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate. Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of.” How easy is it to sink down into a chair, let out a deep sigh and agree with these words? There is so much going on right now BUT – and I don’t mean to contradict George – there is hope to speak of.
I have touched on this in the past but the best thing we as humans can do to make a difference is to focus on the small things. The idea is we start with small things and these small things lead to big things and these big things lead to great things – the type of things that will change the world for the better. Right now, in this country, we have an incredible opportunity to stand up as a whole, as one and work toward a common good. We can choose to be kind instead of cruel, accepting as opposed to rejecting, giving instead of taking, loving instead of hating and inviting as opposed to shunning. There are many things anyone can do at any given time to accomplish any of these ideals. What Daniel is trying to do is to create something so amazing, it has the potential to change the world for the better. From his own words on his blog:
We are promoting an idea. The idea that personal storytelling has the ability to influence people; the idea that conservatives and liberals have equal empathy; the idea that we can help balance the scales of information in this country; the idea that we all share a common humanity; and of course the idea that we can make change.
So, what is the idea?
From Daniel’s Kickstarter page:
We at The Perennial Plate have decided to pause our normal content this summer in order to create and distribute positive, genuine Immigrant and Refugee stories and get them in front of a new audience. We will create five short films that center around the family meals of five different immigrant families. Then we will focus on targeted outreach to get these films out there. So, instead of preaching to the choir, we will use sponsored posts on Facebook to target moderate voters in swing states. These stories will not be fake news, they will not advertisements… Just short documentaries about real people.
When I read this, and watched the video on the page, (links will be at the end of this post) it was a call to action for me. I already had such a fondness and immense appreciation for Daniel’s storytelling that when I read this idea I knew I had to share it with as many people as possible.
I shared with you my own story of Pierre and there are many other people out there just like him. They are here or wish to be here to enjoy a better life and in the end, isn’t that what we all want? There are many more stories to be told and I hope and pray that Daniel gets the funding he needs to tell his stories.
I thank you kindly for reading and as promised, here are the links:
Thank you again and if what you have read today has inspired you, please consider giving and sharing. Just as Johan Reyneke said in the “Meant to Be” film I linked to above here’s to Love, Passion, Nature & Happiness
Just before hitting the publish button on this post, I wanted to share this about Pierre as it highlights another example of what love can do:
From the Habitat for Humanity Website:
Pierre and his wife Clothilde brought their two youngest daughters to Tucson in 2007 after fleeing conflicts in three different countries in Africa for more than thirty years.
“We left our home in Burundi when war came in 1973. We lived in a refugee camp in Tanzania. War came to Tanzania so we moved to Rwanda. When the ethnic cleansing began in Rwanda, we fled back to Tanzania.”
Today, Clothilde works as a housekeeper at Residence Inn and Pierre works for Christ Church United Methodist. The church also provides free housing to Pierre and his family in return for the work he does on campus. Once they were settled in Tucson, Pierre and Clothilde began to dream about a home for their two youngest daughters, Emmanuelina and Devota.
“I won’t be able to work forever and I don’t want the government to have to pay for my housing,” Pierre said.
Because he qualifies for Habitat’s program, Pierre will have a permanent, safe home for the first time since he first fled his war-torn home in Burundi, nearly 40 years ago.
- Nothing so Revolutionary Part I