Je suis Français. “I am a Frenchman.” With that simple, uncompromising statement, olive farmer Cédric Herrou, cut through the hand-wringing indecisiveness many of us have shown in the face of the world’s humanitarian crisis.
The unassuming Mr. Herrou is on trial for smuggling refugees across the southern border between France and Italy. He has run a kind of underground railroad, supplying water, food and help to the many Eritrean and Somali refugees fleeing violence in their own countries.
“There are people dying on the side of the road,” Mr. Herrou “It’s not right. There are children who are not safe. It is enraging to see children, at 2 in the morning, completely dehydrated.”
Herrou comes from the Roya valley region of southeastern France. This is the same area where Jews and resistance fighters found safety among everyday people who resisted and defied the Nazi efforts throughout World War II.
Herrou is not discounting that France needs safe borders and better policies for handling the flow of refugees, but when he sees people in need, he will not refuse to help. I am a Frenchman.
In a week of sickening news from Istanbul to Fort Lauderdale, Herrou’s witness stood out loud and proud and gripped my imagination. He’s not a world leader, a decision maker, a game-changer; he’s just an olive farmer simply loving his neighbor.
I am a Christian. Perhaps you are too. That’s what we call ourselves. But how often do we get hamstrung by ambiguity and mental haze? How frequently do we simply fail to act at all? How often do I languish in a state of “it’s complicated” before I eventually lose interest and move on to the new moment of indecision?
Could I act as simply? As boldly? As courageously and unambiguously as Mr. Herrou? With God’s help this year I’m going to give it a try. I remember Mother Therea’s dictum. Her two commandments she lived by. The first is Whatever God asks, I will do. And the second is, I will obey without delay.
Will you join me?