|Surprised by Joy - Michael Meegan||| Print ||
|Monday, 31 July 2006|
Drawing on his own experiences Michael Meegan recounts an extraordinary life and brings home to the reader in a forceful way the realities of life for the poorest communities of this world.
Michael Meegan has spent much of his life tending to the poor and the sick of Africa and this book is an impassioned plea for help to continue the work. He begins his account by recalling his idyllic childhood, his family's move to Ireland when he was still a child, and the richness of his lifestyle, enjoying travel, sport and generally having a good time. He also, however, from an early age was engaged in a spiritual search that saw him spend time in Cistercian monasteries and also enter the communities of the White Fathers of Africa and the Jesuits. Although he stayed with neither community, his search led him to a conclusion on which he has since based his life: "I can see no better way to spend a life than in pursuit of this, the most momentous and epic of all ambitions - to be kind".
While the book sets out to engage our minds in the need to help the poor of Africa it is not simply a plea for financial aid, for Meegan learnt early the futility of throwing money at a problem and voices criticism of the administration of aid offered by a number of countries. Instead he urges us all to come to realise the gross inequalities of life and to understand that we all have a duty to correct those inequalities. He nudges the conscience of the reader by giving startling statistics of the imbalance, for example the fact pointed out by the World Bank, that the six richest people in the world are richer than the six hundred million poorest. He also describes in riveting detail the realities of the Aids virus and its effects on both individuals and communities.
However "Surprised by Joy" is far from all statistics and harrowing stories of deprivation and disease, though there are plenty of these. The author's own spiritual journey, the examples he has met of the innate goodness and joy of mankind, and portraits of the many people who have positively influenced his life, make of this an inspiring account of what is being done and what can be done by everyone for those to whom life has dealt a poor hand. The underlying call is to each one of us to recognise our responsibility towards our fellow-humans, a responsibility that Meegan has met with compassion and with practical help through the establishment of ICROSS, the International Community for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering. It should be added that his book also has its lighter moments, as in his efforts to teach the importance of safe sex, and his wonderful description of the "barking mad" former wildlife photographer Michaela Denis, "like Bette Davis on speed".
(Maverick House, ISBN 1-905379-05-6, pp260, EU10.99)
Dr Michael Meegan was born in Liverpool, grew up in Dublin and has spent most of his life in Africa. He lives in the Rift Valley of Kenya, working in one of the largest terminal care programmes in East Africa. He has written extensively on poverty and has consulted throughout the world on poverty and health care. He is the author of two other books, "All Will Be Well" and "All Shall Be Well".
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