VIEW FROM AFAR

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DALE SUDERMAN
This is a love story about two people. He was born and raised on the cold prairies of Manitoba in a traditional Mennonite Brethren home. She was born and raised in a small Polish industrial city in a Catholic family living under a communist government.

The odds were against them meeting each other on this planet -let alone learning to pronounce each other’s names.

But they were adventurous souls. He became a chef and landed in Paris, cooking for a family who entertains world leaders in its luxury diplomatic home near the Eiffel Tower.

She became a university student in Poland and takes a year off from her studies to learn French, working as a nanny for Parisian families.

One evening they both end up at a jazz club in central Paris. They find a common language in French and English, but do not exchange phone numbers that evening.

He has an instant crush on her, but they do not meet again for five weeks. (The fourth time he sees her he finally gets her cell phone number.)

Two weeks ago I was at their wedding in Paris.

The officiating priest was a Dominican and medieval scholar fluent in languages. Thus he shifted easily between English, French, Polish and Latin as he officiated in a modest church serving the Polish community in Paris.

“The love between two people is a miracle because it brings many people together,” he said during the homily.

“Can the people in the audience tell me where they are from? Just call it out.”

The 45 folks present softly called out their home countries. “Poland, Canada, the United States, Australia, Germany, Britain, France, Belgium, Slovakia, Portugal” and others I did not catch.

There was a quiet laughter in the audience as we did this. We were strangers brought together by our love and friendship with Brian and Olenka.

After taking pictures in the park, the ladies with high heels forced their husbands to get taxis to take them to the feasting and dancing at the reception.

My friend Tim and I chose to walk with Tobias. As we ambled along the Paris streets, he told us his story. He grew up in East Germany and his Christian family was ostracized for their political and religious views by the communist government in power at that time.

Now he edits a Jewish newspaper in Berlin, serving the tiny Jewish population remaining in Germany-the remnants of a horrible time 60 years ago.

He met Brian on an international youth tour in which young folks from both sides of the Iron Curtain traveled together.

“We went to America and I was in Kansas,” he said.

I inquired about his visit to Kansas. “Oh, we stayed at Tabor College-well not really, I lived with a family on a farm near there.”

“Do you remember their names?” I asked.

“Paul and Elda Suderman. I helped him on the farm and his children were around. They were very good to me.”

I updated him on the recent passing of Mrs. Suderman and he sent his condolences and expressed a desire to revisit them in Kansas.

But now married with four children, he mused, this would be difficult.

At the reception we feasted and danced and chatted and took endless pictures in the luxury apartment that the bosses had contributed for the reception.

I poked around and found the last formal dinner there was for the president of South Korea. In the long hall leading to the bathroom the host family had a photo gallery.

Among the family photos were autographed pictures of Al Gore, Laura Bush, Colin Powell and Alan Greenspan.

But this night was for the ordinary people-to celebrate family and friendship. It is a good thing to have fancy programs to bring people together from different countries and cultures.

But for me, this celebration of love and friendship was my best experience of the sheer joy of being part of the global family.

You can contact the writer by e-mail at suderman@aol.com.

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