An Undocumented Migrant and The Bridge of Life!


Photography is my hobby. I especially love street-photography. Don't worry, I do not take photos of people per-se but of objects and things I see in the street. One night I took my camera to the city center of Amsterdam. People were passing by. Lovers are holding hands, some eating Patat, some are shivering of cold. In short, people were all busy doing something. An African man, playing guitar drove my attention. I felt like taking some photos of him. I approached him politely and asked him if I could take some pictures of him. He nodded with his head, "yes." I put some coins in his basket. As he was singing, I took some photos. A week later, it was the opening of our new classes at the Academy of Amsterdam. We offer theological education, but also integrated human rights education for migrants and refugees. That evening was the opening of our new course on human rights. I was surprised to see the African guitarist I photographed a week earlier. "Hey, you are the photographer," he said to me. I joked with him and replied, "but now I am the director of this academy." "What are you doing here?" I asked. He explained that he wanted to study, and he had nowhere to go. "No one wants me," he said, "because I do not have papers." Since then, every week in the evenings, I saw him attending the class.


He said: "Do you see this bridge? To me, this is the bridge life!" His voice was getting emotional. "Do you know why I call this the bridge of life?"

A couple of months passed, the weather was getting better. I retook my camera and left for the city center. As I was passing through the busy streets of Amsterdam, under the bridge, I saw my student. He was eating nuts with little bread and milk. His guitar was by his side. "Hey, prof. How nice to see you here," he said. He took the little bread he had with some nuts and offered me to eat. This was his dinner! He then told me that he is homeless, he sleeps here and there. He never wanted us to know. He mentioned that he loves to make music and make some money in the street, rather than ending up in criminality. He told me that he thanks God for every day of his life. That he is never bitter or angry to God or to anybody. Then he did something that touched my heart. He pointed with his finger to the bridge, where he always plays his guitar. He said: "do you see this bridge? To me, this is the bridge life!" His voice was getting emotional. "Do you know why I call this the bridge of life?" “Because This is the only bridge on which I can play music. That is what the police told me. I make my earning on that bridge. I play music so that I can leave with the little money that I earn.” He said. He then continued: “do you see that man who is playing harmonica there? He is my Dutch friend. He is also homeless, like me. You know, we share this bridge together. When he plays, I rest, and when I play, he rests!”


Suddenly there was silence. His words were echoing in my heart! "The Bridge of life" What a powerful metaphor. People often have a tendency to complain about every little thing. Yet I learned from my student that gratefulness in times of hardship is a sign of hope. An inner hope that money, richness, wealth, and comfort cannot give. It's a peace that is Divine, God-given, Holy Spirit inspired...

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© 2010-2019 by Samuel C. Lee

 

Samuel Lee (Ph.D.) is university lecturer, at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam - Faculty of Religion and Theology (FRT-VU), and director for Center for Theology of Migration, the educational program of Samen Kerk in Nederland at the FRT-VU. 

He is the founder of Foundation Academy of Amsterdam, offering higher education in liberal arts and humanities for migrants, refugees and persecuted minorities.

 

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