“He who is different from me does not impoverish me- he enriches me. Our unity is constituted in something higher than ourselves- in Man…For no man seeks to hear his own echo, or to find his reflection in the glass.” — Antoine de Saint Exupery
Being a travel writer for 30 years, (or any occupation for 30 years) can make you sometimes question your level of passion in your work, for your work. You get fairly good at what you do, you figure out a formula of how to write, what works best, what is successful, what produces results (as in, affecting readers and moving them). But like any job, it can get stale, even something as exciting as travel writing.
I was scheduling a trip to Jim Thorpe and Schuylkill County to learn about the Molly Maguires, an Irish-American secret society in the Pennsylvania coal country. This is the story of a series of sensational arrests and trials of Irish coal miners back in the late 1890’s. So I enlisted the help and company of my Irish American friend, Joe Devoy. Now 42, Joe immigrated to America at the age of 18. I hoped he might provide me with some insight and understanding of the whole Irish personality and relate deeper layers of the story. But I was surprised to witness the effect the story had on him, observing his level of empathy and compassion while experiencing the story through a fellow countryman’s eyes.
As a result, I learned much more and I was personally moved to care deeper about the Molly Maguires and to do a better job at relaying my story to my readers. But it also illustrated a very important point about humanity and our relationship to our fellow man. We are all in this life together, and we are all striving for the same goals- to be happy, to create a better life, to make a difference, to love. It makes no difference if we are a coal-mining Irishman in Mauch Chunk (present day town of Jim Thorpe) back in the 1870’s or a Mexican in the town of Shenandoah in 2010 (site of a brutal murder a few years back by high school football players) or two friends who had their start on opposite sides of the ocean. We are all related,
we are not much different and the quicker we evolve and grasp that, the sooner we can get to the best part- the loving part, the fun part. I knew all this already. But it is so nice to be reminded. Thanks Joe Devoy. As your friend, you helped me be better…a better writer and a better person.