Thursday, April 30, 2015

September 27, 1939: Hospitality

 Letter from Phil Myers at McPherson College to Charlotte Salmon at AFSC

Charlotte Salmon
American Friends Service Committee
Philadelphia, Penns.

Dear Miss Salmon:

I have at hand your letter of September 25, stating that Thomas Doeppner has obtained his passport. This is certainly good news for him and for us and I am sure that we both thank you for your diligent efforts in his behalf.

I am not certain about my time schedule but if he leaves there the 7th he should be here about the 18th or 19th, should he not? I presume that since it is so late he will come to McPherson immediately. If you would communicate to me the time and place of his arrival in McPherson- I will be very happy to meet him or to make arrangements for someone else to meet him.

We have arrangements all completed for his boarding place etc. He is to room with the President of the Student Christian Movement in the boys dormitory. Coming late as he is, what or rather how much of a academic load would you suggest that he take? If you have any other suggestions or ideas that might make his adjustment easier and his stay more pleasant we would appreciate knowing them.

Thanking you again for your continued efforts, I am

Sincerely yours,
Phil Myers

Phil Myers is the kind of guy I would want greeting me if I stepped off a bus, plane, or train into an unfamiliar place. His letter communicates one thing: we are ready to welcome Tom. The focus never strays too far from the ultimate reason for this whole shindig- to bring a refugee safely out of harm’s way. Sure, he’ll attend school. Sure, he’ll be an asset to the college with his European perspective and experiences. But ultimately, the goal is to help this boy have a chance at freedom.

The other day while my Dad and I were discussing this project, he told me about three themes he noticed that kept showing up in everything we read and learned, three themes that were consistent in my Grandparent’s values: 1) the value of hard work, 2) the value of education, and 3) the value of freedom.

Phil Myers and the hospitable McPherson College were confident that Opa would work hard and pursue his education. Their responsibility was to ensure his freedom, and I deeply appreciate their commitment to doing everything in their power to give him that.

I think about how simple hospitality is. How kind and healing it can be. There is hospitality in Phil's kind question about what kind of course load would be most appropriate for Opa, who would be arriving late and likely in a bit of culture shock. He wants Opa to feel comfortable, to succeed, to adjust easily. 

What would my life look like if I gave this kind of hospitality freely? What would it be like if I accepted it from others? I know that Opa was grateful, but I wonder if he ever knew the amount of preparation and effort that went into this moment of welcome.

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