The world – our village

100_0841 - CopyWhenever we hear the sound of a helicopter circling overhead, we know that someone is in trouble in our little village. The helicopter lands on the school playing field, and the one in need is whisked away to hospital.

Last year it rescued an elderly resident who’d slipped down a cliff, the year before, a village teenager with broken legs and arms after coming off his new motor cycle.

This time it was a profound tragedy when a young mother was suddenly rushed to hospital with a killer illness that struck out of the blue, and who only lived for another two hours. Everyone wants to surround the family and the small children with love and care and food and anything that would assuage the grief that can never be assuaged.

That’s how a village works. When I had a car accident many years ago, the family were swamped with food and help both while I was in hospital and afterwards. My daughter- in- law has the beautiful knack of creating a village wherever she lives or works, whether it’s a block of flats and her work place in London, or her suburban street and her children’s school here in New Zealand.

I’ve often wondered how she does it… I think it’s a mixture of care, interest in everyone around her, a willingness to become involved with their lives, and a sense of responsibility to the world and to her neighbours, however you define neighbour. And tolerance.

I think of other villages where those were the things that not only defined the village but made them unique, and two spring to mind immediately.
At a time when France allowed over 80,000 Jewish men, women and children to be deported to concentration camps, the community of Le Chambon- sur- Lignon in France hid some thousands throughout the war. This tiny community of only several thousand themselves, took Jewish children and families into their homes, and though most were poor, and hard put to feed themselves, they fed and protected their charges throughout the years of Nazi occupation.

No-one was ever turned away. The Germans knew this was happening and several times tried to intimidate the villagers and their leader, Pastor Andre Trocme, arriving with buses to take the Jews away. Whenever the Germans came, the villagers hid their refugees in the forest, and when the Germans had left the villagers would go into the forest, and sing a song. The Jews would then emerge from their hiding place and go back to their homes in the village.

Later one of the villagers said: “We didn’t protect the Jews because it was moral or heroic, but because it was the human thing to do”.

One other village in Occupied Europe also did this human thing. In the tiny village of Nieuwlande in the Netherlands, every one of the one hundred and seventeen villagers took a Jewish person or family into their home and kept them safe throughout the Nazi occupation. The pastor’s son, Arnold Douwe was the moving force behind this act of compassion and unbelievable courage.

The people in both villages showed incredible moral and heroic fortitude, not just for a day or a week or a year, but for years, never knowing how long their ordeal would last. Philosophers may argue about whether altruism exists, but as far as this naive human being is concerned, this was altruism of the highest order.

These apparently ordinary people put themselves and their families in mortal danger, and coped with daily drudgery too – would you want the inconvenience of sharing your home with strangers indefinitely? They did this for no reward except for knowing they had done their best for other human beings, and in doing so were themselves truly human.

Such generosity and compassion in a community can still happen. We all saw on the news the loving welcome the people of Germany offered to the tragic human beings who arrived on their doorstep in the last few days, after their months of unfathomable misery and un-imaginable hardship.

The heart-rending picture of one small boy lying dead on a sunny beach has reached the hearts of most people in the world, and shown us once again that we really are a village. The actions of western governments and power plays of western nations have destroyed these decent, ordinary people’s lives and countries, their towns and their villages. So now perhaps it’s time for the world to remember that it is a global village, and to show with action the loving compassion of village life in societies all over the world.

Maybe every village in the western world could pledge to share their peace and plenty with a refugee family…

And maybe, like Cecil the Lion, whose cruel and untimely death raised the consciousness of the world about the value and nobility of animals, these terrible scenes of refugees struggling to find safety and peace for their children, will raise the consciousness of the world too. These lines of exhausted refugees, and frail boats filled with desperate families, sinking in the sea, are reminding us of our common humanity.

They are reminding us of all that we have in common – love for our families, a love of peace, a longing for freedom, enough food, and education for our children – blurring the lines of division, whether race, religion, nationality or gender.
These strange times could be a turning point in the history of the world if we could use this crisis as an opportunity to bury our differences, and work for a common cause… which is peace on earth and goodwill to all men, women and children.


Food for threadbare gourmets

One of my favourite dishes is risotto, and I have lots of variations. This one is a very subtle version, using leeks instead of onions. Rinse and chop two medium leeks very finely and gently cook them in butter. Don’t let them brown, as they will turn bitter. When soft stir in a cup of risotto rice, I use arborio, and then a glass of white wine or Noilly Prat.
Let it boil up until the alcohol has evaporated, and then add the hot chicken stock in the usual way. When cooked, stir in a knob of butter and four tablespoons of grated parmesan.
Meanwhile grill six rashers of streaky bacon or pancetta if you have it, cut it into small pieces, and when the rice is cooked, stir them into the mix, and serve with more parmesan.


Food for thought

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama




Filed under consciousness, cookery/recipes, family, food, history, human potential, life and death, love, peace, philosophy, spiritual, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, uncategorised, village life

54 responses to “The world – our village

  1. It is so heartening Valerie to finally see images of citizens arriving to greet those fleeing with warmth and compassion, that emapthetic welcoming response must mean so much to people who have endured what they have been through in the recent past and during this journey. It seems rare for us to hear, as we have today from one woman “we have so much and now finally we can do something to help these people”.

    Thank you for this post Valerie, I am sure we are going to witness a much greater outpouring of kindness, support and assistance for refugees, as the Prime Minister of Finland has shown. What a role model.


  2. It’s true that while many villages were turning the Jews over to the Nazis those two stood out for their humanity.Last week a village in Germany showed it still had vestiges of that humanity when it cheered and welcomed the refugee families to it’s midst.If it was the image of the dead child on the beach that did that, as it’s spurred countries to accept more of the refugees, then I hope that image stays with people a long time.In truth, I have high hopes of people and what kindness they can show. It’s Governments I need my hopes raising with.
    The UK has shown finally that it’s heart is in the right place and more refugees will be accepted by the Government, now the people will be able to show what kindness they can do.Let’s hope this is not a one off gesture but a real attempt to help an make things better. Maybe all the European Countries will then see the damage done by their conflicts in other lands and stop creating conflict for oil. We must put people first.
    xxx Massive Hugs Valerie xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, David, I think most decent people feel the same, and want to help.And as you say, we have to find a way to resolve conflict through other means than war… war never works, but people with power never seem to get this message !!!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. A lovely piece. I have been so moved by the tragedies paraded daily on our TV screens and often rather depressed but the response from UK politicians. Now I think the tide is turning as it should. I think we all need to remember that we are all part of one race – the human race and that borders are man made things which can be changed.


  4. I wasn’t expecting such a powerful piece this morning, and am touched and warmed by your beautifully presented writing. This essay should be editorial fodder for newspapers around the world!


    • Thank you Ronnie, so good to hear from you. Thank you for your enthusiasm too… it’s an issue which hurts us all, and we all want to help those who are really hurting through no fault of their own…


  5. Barbara Popplewell

    I love your writings, Valerie. Thankyou so much for your effort.


  6. Beautiful and moving article, Valerie. There is still much beauty, kindness and compassion in our world.


  7. We have a fascinating programme on Radio 4 here called the long view which is just what you have done here in this beautifully written post about humanity. People every where are rising up to help despite the meanness of our government, in particular.
    We love a leek risotto too, usually with bits of chicken but next time with pancetta or bacon – perfect.
    All the best to you 🙂


    • Hello Sally, lovely to hear from you… thank you for your lovely words. And yes, isn’t it wonderful that people all over the world are showing that they care, and are not satisfied with their governments’ mealy-mouthed responses…
      While you try pancetta in your risotto, I will lash out with chicken !!!
      Keep getting well…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. These examples of humanity are beacons of hope in a world that sometimes seems anything but a village. It’s a reminder that you don’t have to live in a small, close-knit community to create that sense of caring for one another.


  9. So beautifully written! I agree this needs to be flung far and wide around the world for other to see ….to stop and say…I can be part of the solution.



  10. And that last quote was perfect too – thank you for a wonderful essay.. c


  11. Thank you Valerie, I only wish your words would reach into the heartless of this nation. I am living among those without compassion or empathy I think and it breaks my heart every single day.

    This was beautifully written and a wonderful reminder of humanity at its finest.


    • Thank you Val, you always give me such encouragement. I also know how painful it is for you to see the pain around you, and to feel powerless to stop it… but I do think you make difference by being who you are,and being such truthful and eloquent witness to it all.


  12. Juliet

    Valerie, what a beautiful and compassionate post. I’d never heard about those villages who took in Jewish refugees. Solidarity is powerful. Thank you.


  13. This was quite common in the French countryside, especially in the wilder and more remote bits. For the Germans (or the Vichy authorities before them) a big sweep such as was used in Paris just wasn’t possible.

    Your description of how the village works very well describes the nature of a community.


    • Thank you Simon, so good to hear from you…
      Yes, you corroborate what one of my closest friends, has told me… she is a French marquise, married to a much older man ( now dead) who was in the Resistance , and she tells me that people did bravely hide persecuted Jews, but not of course, whole villages like these two I quoted…


  14. Behind the Story

    My neighborhood is a planned community of thirty-six houses. I often call it my village because it has some of the characteristics you mentioned about villages. Your daughter-in-law has a priceless talent. I admire her knack of creating a village wherever she lives or works. A city can be such a lonely place without people like her to break through the anonymity and disregard.

    Today my blog spotlights a woman who left the war and chaos of Laos fifty years ago. She entered the United States as a refugee, and now she has a successful life. I hope today’s refugees will be welcomed and do just as well as she has.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Angela

    Well said Valerie……why can the ‘ordinary’ citizens of the world see it & feel it….yet the elected (& supposedly acting on our behalf!) politicians be so mealy mouthed & cold….sigh


  16. Anonymous

    Beautiful post, Valerie. You always give us the long view of history and humanity. The Dalai Lama speaks the truth and so do you. War never does work, but kindness always is possible. Thank you for these powerfully expressed words.


    • Thank you so much for your beautiful comment …yes, there is never a moment in time when kindness isn’t possible..Aldous Huxley’s last words were the wish that we could all be kind to each other !!!


  17. A heartwarming post, dear Valerie. I am in the middle of reading “Once Upon A Town” which is about North Platte Nebraska. This is where my mother was raised. I think you would enjoy it:

    We live in very interesting times – a global world, with global problems. There are no easy solutions – history provides us with many examples of migrations that were brought on by war and famine. One of my favourite quotes is by J.R.R. Tolkien: “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
    “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
    We all have a choice – may we continue to chose the compassionate and reasonable way. Always wonderful to stop by…

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Some Governments, such as our own, are deciding how many refugees they can afford to take. There is sense in considering cost factors but in times of crisis, can the accounts not be done later? These refugees are people not items on a balance sheet. In previous times of crisis the NZ Government and NZ families opened their arms to refugees. In WW2, you may recall, NZ accepted about 700 Polish children and their carers. NZ was to take care of them until they could return to Poland. It was an innovative solution to a crisis. In 1956, New Zealanders welcomed refugees following the Hungarian revolution. Your choice of the Dalai Lama’s quote for your post is apt, especially as the Dalai Lama himself knows the life of the refugee so intimately.


    • I agree Amanda, it’s not as though the government couldn’t give up some of their perks like ministerial cars, free flights for the rest of their lives etc, to share some of our plenty with those in dire need.

      I followed up the other interesting post you pointed me to, thank you…

      I will never forget those desperate last words coming out of Hungary as the radio closed down and the Russians closed in. It broke my heart.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. “And maybe, like Cecil the Lion, whose cruel and untimely death raised the consciousness of the world about the value and nobility of animals, these terrible scenes of refugees struggling to find safety and peace for their children, will raise the consciousness of the world too.”

    This is so true Valerie – every day I seem to be reading about people doing good things for each other, and being reminded to care. Your blog is such an inspiration. Jx


    • Thank you so much Jade for your kind words, and also for the lovely reminder that people are being kind to each other all the time in quiet simple ways… maybe the times they are a-changing… we just don’t notice it. sometimes…

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Yes, the sadness has indeed “shown us once again that we really are a village” Thank you for your thoughtful reminder


  21. Ah Valerie, only you might write a post that offers comfort. That little boy who drowned on a beach in Turkey? The place is Bodrum. My husband and I visited Bodrum almost 20 years ago. I bought the rug on our living room floor there; I chose a prayer rug with a pattern that reminded me of ribbon candy. Now, when I look at this rug that has brought me so much pleasure through the years, instead of candy I see the waves of the sea bringing desparate refugees from their homes in hopes of a place to live in peace. I am so proud of my adopted home of Germany. The German people show what we as humanity are capable of — from worst, to best. This is one of their finest hours. Thank you for your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Oh Jadi, what a touching comment… so much food for thought..I can imagine how your rug is impregnated with thoughts and memories and reminders…
    Yes, it was so inspiring to see those wonderful pictures of the German people greeting the refugees with such warmth and love.
    It brought tears to my eyes – tears of thankfulness and gratitude that people can be so caring, and relief that at last the refugees were getting some love .


  23. Dear Valerie,



    A friend

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I remember reading a book about Le Chambon- sur- Lignon maybe in the 80’s, very well written. Do you happen to know it, or the name of it? I’d like to find it again.
    Great post, thank you.


    • Thank you for your comment, lovely to know you enjoyed it…. There is a book by Philip Hallie ” Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed, The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There”.
      Also Victoria Barnett wrote ” Bystanders. Conscience and Complicity During the Holocaust” in which she includes a chapter on Le Chambon.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I’m certainly not ahead of the response curve on this post, Valerie. Unpleasantly busy week, but wonderful compared to what so many refugees are experiencing, so I’m ever mindful to be grateful for my life. I greatly admire people like your daughter-in-law, who assemble a village wherever they are. I’m a good one-on-one friend, but not so much with the village gathering. But I love living in a village, having grown up in one of 2500 people and seen how that works and cares for each other. Very thoughtful and timely post, Valerie, thank you.


  26. Hello Ardys…. sweet of you to comment at all – I know how blogging housekeeping can get on top of you !
    Yes, I’m a one- on- one friend, rather than a gregarious one…it takes all sorts !!!!


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