the wisdom in words

How Language Carries Our Earliest Cultural Values

SOMETHING GOOD  Tue Dec 28, 2010
SOMETHING GOOD For a change, something to be happy to report. Four students at the Universität des Saarlandes where I teach—two undergraduates, two doctoral students—decided in early December to collect Christmas presents for poor children in Ireland. Our English department is in the midst of an “Irish Semester,” and we have received generous support from the European Government, Irish embassy in Berlin, Volkswagen Ireland, the Irish Tourist Board, and Guinness. They decided that we should give something back. The Saint Vincent de Paul Society in Ireland agreed to accept and distribute presents for us. DHL volunteered free shipping and delivery to Ireland for our packages. And Wordsworth Publishers in England gave them 48 free books, ranging from “Gulliver’s Travels” to “The Little Prince,” from Jane Austen to John Steinbeck, from a big book of Irish fairy tales to the collected tales of Edgar Allan Poe. Starting the 10th of December, they asked students and staff to leave presents in our departmental library: €10 to €15 presents, of a size to fit in a shoebox, for girls or boys, age groups up to three, 4 to 8, 8 to 12, and teenagers. Five days later, DHL picked up 141 boxes. And the boxes arrived at St. Vincent De Paul in Dublin on Tuesday, 21 December, in time to be delivered for Christmas. Michael Tighe, their contact at St. Vincent de Paul, wrote to thank them: I think this is a great story of European brotherhood and goodwill. A lot of people here feel quite conflicted about Ireland having to ask for support from the IMF and the EU so something like this, in my opinion, adds a lovely sense of European community and society instead of it all being about European economy. Maybe I’m just a romantic, but you have really brightened my sense of being not just Irish but a European too. Eva Michely, Heike Missler, Klaus Schappert, and Sebastian Zimmer are already planning for next year. Maybe 141 boxes will turn into 500 then. Bert Hornback