This scarf of New York landmarks including the Statue of Liberty belonged to my grandmother, Harry Edmonds’ middle daughter Margaret. Sadly, even though she had grown up at International House and was surrounded by Harry and Florence’s ethos of tolerance, my memories of her are of someone who had very set views on who she would and would not tolerate, to the point of being uncomfortable and embarrassing. Her influence on me, if any, has been that I determined to be curious and interested in people no matter their background, religion or country of origin. I am however curious about what it is that either encourages us to be tolerant or to choose to be fixed in our views. I will never know what the switch was in my grandmother, but I do believe that International House allows for that exploration and hopefully residents are touched with a new level of tolerance as they go out into the world.

Joe Lurie kindly shared his informal history of I-House Berkeley with me again last week and as I was reading it I was struck by the piece about an amazing lady Delilah Beasley who was a black journalist on the Oakland Tribune in the 1930s. There was a great deal of protest at the House being built and the idea of having somewhere where people of all nationalities and races and both men and women living was very controversial. Delilah was never a resident of the House but she turned up when there was a big protest (c800 people) and passionately advocated the need to let the House be built. She also took on the local property developers who were unhappy about the House going up. She was in my view a champion of tolerance.

International Friendship

As Christmas approaches here in the UK, I have been thinking of the International Friendship part of my aim for my trip. Whilst my life has not been quite as international as some of the I-Housers I have already met, I have been very fortunate to have worked and lived in a number of different parts of the world.

My trip is an opportunity to connect with new I-House international friends, but is also allowing me to meet up with old friends too. I love my friends here in the UK, but there is something really special about meeting up with friends in other countries, it nearly always involves new experiences. By reaching out and catching up with friends on my travels I can honestly say I have had some of the most enriching times of my life and I hope have bought something to their lives too.

About three years ago I went on a trip to China with an organisation called Leaders Quest who create amazing leadership quests for NGO and business participants and I met Ashok Rathod, founder of Oscar Foundation in Mumbai India. They work with children from slum communities changing lives through football and education. Three years on this encounter has bought me so many new things and friendships, as I am a trustee of the UK side of the charity. The feet in the picture are kids from our Jharkhand project.

My Christmas request for anyone taking the time to read this is to remember your I-House friends and to reach out and say hello to them and whenever you are travelling and have a spare evening, breakfast or lunch slot, why not spend it with someone you have not seen for a while and ‘pass the light on’.

Wishing you a happy and peaceful Christmas.