Practical Gifts

With the recent agreement between the European Union and Turkey for Turkey to return all undocumented refugees to Greece, many think that Italy will now become the European entry point for Middle Eastern refugees. For years, refugees from sub-Sahara Africa, for economic or political reasons, have trickled into Europe through Italy. Little by little the numbers have increased. Ten thousand immigrants made it to Italy just last year.


The other day, two photos from the NYT caught my eye. One was of a group of human smugglers in Greece standing around discussing their options now that the passage of their cargo through Greece and Turkey was no longer viable. One can speculate that these “business men” were planning new routes for the unfortunate that find it necessary to flee there homes from the Middle East.


The second photo was of a group of refugees from sub-Sahara Africa standing in a small town in Sicily. All of the refugees were male. Most were quite young. They had made there way through Northern Africa and over the Mediterranean Sea to a new country. The group stood face forward unafraid, perhaps grateful to have their picture taken. The men looked weary, but what struck me was that someone or some group anticipated their arrival. Each carried a clear plastic bag containing a large bottle of water and a few rolls of toilet paper. Most wore the same kind of hat, possibly an additional gift. In spite of the unhappy circumstances, I had to smile. The affluent can think of only one purpose for the paper. I bet those men will find many uses for this unexpected present.


Historically, the long coast of Italy has been punctured by many invaders. Each grope brought some kind of change. The Italians have survived. I believe that they will continue to do so.

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