My family lives a few doors down from a lady called Alice who, since we moved in three years ago, has appeared a bit stand-offish. She seems quite well-to-do and let’s just say I thought she might not be well-disposed to refugees.
For that reason, when my 12-year-old daughter Eva said she’d like to ask our neighbours if they had any coats they’d donate to Care4Calais, I said of course, but just be careful with Alice. If she says no, maybe don’t push the point. Eva is quite passionate on the subject, and I didn’t her, or indeed Alice, to get hurt.
About an hour after setting out, Eva came back with a big armful of coats.
“Where they are from?” I asked
“All from Alice,” she said. “Did you know her mum and dad were refugees?”
It turns out my supposedly stand-offish neighbour’s parents came over from Austria in the 1930s. Her father worked as a doctor here, her mother as a teacher. Alice, retired now, spent her working life as a translator. She was delighted to help, and donated some coats that had belonged to her late husband.
So like I said, between them, an outspoken, open-hearted kid and an older lady have taught me something: Don’t ever underestimate the role that refugees have played in this country’s history, or assume that we know what other people’s feelings are. Making us mistrust each other is all part of how this rotten government’s propaganda works. Don’t fall for it like I did.
You can buy a warm waterproof coat and other Christmas gifts for refugees at shop.care4calais.org