Violin Gifts, Human Gifts Guest Blogger from Berlin
This entry was posted on March 11, 2016.
Human Gifts More Important than Violin Gifts
Let me introduce Paul Brody who is on the Violettes by Becky Board helping to spread Violin Gifts. Paul is my brother. He helped come up with the Violettes name meaning little violins. He takes the violin gifts to boutiques in Berlin, Vienna and Paris to sell. He is part of the backbone of the Violettes by Becky Annual Youth Composition and Songwriter Competition. But he is also spreading human gifts helping the refugees that are pouring into Berlin.
Guest Blogger, Paul Brody, from Berlin:
I live in Berlin, Germany where thousands of refugees live within a few miles radius of my apartment.
While talking with my son about the latest ISIS atrocities, we mention that his grandmother, my Mom, was a refugee from 1939 Nazi Vienna. We always said, “If it weren’t for the luck of her family escaping Hitler, we
wouldn’t be here.” The emphasis was always on the threat. But in light of the refugee situation in Berlin, and hearing stories from so many of our friends volunteering to clean living quarters, donate clothes, and teach German, we looked at each other and saw our well trodden thought in a new light. “If it weren’t for those who helped Grandma get on the Kindertransport headed for England, and for those in England who took care of her, we wouldn’t be here.
The next day I walked to the Wilmersdorf City Hall, where over a thousand refugees lived in rooms that weren’t currently occupied by government employees.
It took me fifteen minutes to walk around the building to find the proper entrance. Laundry, milk and produce placed on window sills to keep cool in the Berlin winter, and second hand children’s toys were scattered around three sides the building.
I showed my passport to the guard and signed in. A soccer game was in full swing in the football field sized back court yard of city hall. Jump rope and hop scotch and teens huddling in circles filled the corners. I listened to the symphony of echoing children’s play, took in the mini world of those who had come from a place I thought little about until this year.
Images of news flashes blinked in my head: skies of Syria, bombs falling, beheadings, neighborhoods turned to rubble. And here they are. The unlucky lucky ones. What stories were contained in these young people spending their day like a million other kids in Europe?
Then a girl, about 13 years old zipped by with big curious eyes under her headscarf. She gave me her best, Guten Tag. I nodded shyly. Then I felt tears well up in my eyes. That girl could be the same age as my mother when she was welcomed into a children’s home, then adopted by a Quaker family until the end of the war.
Why should this have to be? This insanity in the world? Why wasn’t that girl in her small town in Syrian enjoying an after school ice cream with her friends? But that’s a useless thought. She’s here, and we’re helping. And that’s all that matters.
During each visit to the city hall "home", those working in the main office quoted higher and higher numbers of refugees in Berlin; and we emptied, cleaned, and set up new rooms in the Wilmerdorf City Hall.
A good part of the fourth floor was cleared out for class rooms for both kids and adults.
The board of education department in former East Berlin donated a forest of DDR school desks that had been in storage since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. We lugged them to the fourth floor, washed them, and scraped the rock solid gum off the bottoms.
I met a great cross section of Berlin volunteering at the city hall. Retired school teachers, lost souls looking for a mission, Marshal Plan workers, a film maker, the president of a well known architecture firm, and countless students. But the one that stays in my mind the most is a young woman who went about performing even the most dreadful chores with ease, even laughing. ======>>>>>>>
We were carrying boxes of winter clothes, shoes, and bedding from the massive basement, where refugees from my mother’s generation were supposed to have hid, to a room upstairs where the Syrian refugees could rummage through.
I asked her if she was a student. She giggled, “No, I send text messages to Angela Merkel.”
“That’s a funny. I should use that too!” I responded.
“It’s not a joke. My job is to keep up with the news and if anything thing seems important, then I distribute the information to Merkel and a few other important politicians via cell phone. I’m in charge of keeping them up to date on an hourly basis.”
“So you really send Angela Merkel text messages?”
“I really do!” she smiled.
“Well, would you please tell her that I’m sorry that we spied on her cell phone, and hello from Paul the American trumpeter living in Berlin.”
“Will do,” she said.
Months later, when visiting my sister Becky in Knoxville I found out that when she wasn’t busy working on her company, Violettes By Becky, she’s volunteering to help refugees as well.
“Refugees in East Tennessee?” I asked.
“Of course” she responded. “85,000 refugees are authorized to be resettled in the US in 2016 (up from 70,000 for the past 4 years). This means we find them a place to live, a job, and help them assimilate. We give each and every one of them community. But for now, there are no Syrians getting thru the vetting process. It takes many years to be approved. Only 1/2 of 1% of all refugees are 'resettled'. ”