18-08-30 Laughter as Hospitality

Issued: Thu, 30 Aug 2018 10:31:00 BST

Alison Phipps reflects on friendship that sustained and nourished her and that taught her that dignity, hospitality and laughter are intimately related.

I met Maggie Birley nearly 20 years ago when we were both doing a week of voluntary work on the Isle of Iona, and our task was to give a fresh coat of paint to the toilets in the Welcome Centre. Our equipment wasn’t exactly ideal, and we were constantly interrupted by visitors wanting to use the loos. Maggie had come prepared – she was the kind of woman who had overalls in her rucksack. I wasn’t. This quickly becomes the kind of hilarious, hard-enough task that can rapidly build relationships between strangers.

As we tried to decorate under trying circumstances, white specks filling my hair from an asymmetrical paintbrush, we found out about each other. It’s the way conversation flows from the task at hand, something I’ve found to be common to all good work which seeks to integrate people into new spaces, places, and communities. “This reminds me of when we were in El Salvador,” she said at one point. “This reminds me of jumble sales in Norton Church Hall in Sheffield,” I replied and the laughter began between us. Worlds apart, yet new worlds being made together....


This excerpt reproduced with permission from Scottish Refugee Council - Blog published 29 Aug 2018.  For the full piece please visit: Scottish Refugee Council