Sunday, September 11, 2005


I've been increasingly involved in the community of the
Unitarian Church in Pittsburgh.
I went to a lovely picnic there after service this morning,
and spoke with many of the members. One in particular told
me a wonderful story, which I relate here.

It was toward the end of the picnic, and I was looking for
a friend to say my goodbyes. I was standing around looking
lost, when an older man in a green T-shirt approached me.
He had a name tag reading John McCarthy, I believe. I
happened to be writing my name down to sign up for a
name tag, so he observed my last name. He started telling me
of his family in Ireland.

I'm slightly embarrassed to say that I was hesitant to get into this
discussion in the first place. There was a particularly
attractive young woman I was eager to speak with before I
left, and I was mostly listening out of politeness at
first. But what followed was one of the best stories I've
heard first hand in my life.

John's grandfather was basically
kicked out of the house (off the farm, actually) in Ireland
for marrying a Scottish woman. They emigrated to the US
and ended up outside Pittsburgh. His grandfather worked
as a plasterer and his mother did laundry for the wealthy
steel magnates in the mansions nearby their more meager
home. His father, the eldest of 4 boys, upon graduation
from elementary school, faced the (parent's) choice of
attending high school or going to work at Kaufmann's, a
department store. His mother told everyone that John Sr.
was going to graduate from high school, get an office job,
and help put the rest of his brothers through college!

After college, John Sr. was drafted into the army to
fight in WWI. He was such a good student in school,
however, that they pulled him off the front lines to be a
stenographer for the officers. He served this position
throughout the war. At the end, ready to go home to his
family in Pittsburgh, an officer approached him asking if he
would remain in the army a few more months. "Why?", he
asked. "We would like you to come to href=""> Versailles and record
the meetings that will be taking place there. He became
an official stenographer for Woodrow Wilson, Clemenceau,
Orlando and Lloyd George. He remembered Wilson vehemently
objecting to the one-sidedness of the treaty, counseling
compassion instead of revenge. He suggested, in John's
presence, that there would be another war if such a
"treaty" were enforced on the Germans. Indeed.

Walking out of the meeting room, I spotted the following
framed quote from Albert Schweitzer:

"The only ones among you who will be really happy are those
who will have sought and found how to serve."

It is a wonderful place.

An awesome falafel place in Berlin

A great book I read while travelling. In English of course.
I thought it was funny to see it in German.

The new Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.

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