May Cochranites be rainbows of hope for Syrian refugees

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, February 18, 2016

“Rainbow over Cochrane,” a watercolour by Cochrane artist Dawn Piche, welcomes newly arrived families from Syria with symbol of hope.
Click for a larger version

“God puts rainbows in the clouds so that each of us – in the dreariest and most dreaded moments – can see a possibility of hope.” Thus said Maya Angelou, American civil rights activist whose words have given hope and determination to many in the worldwide struggle for human rights.

Her words about rainbows of hope relate very much to a watercolour painting given me a few years ago.

And in a most timely way, they also relate particularly well to the recent arrival of three Syrian refugee families in Cochrane.

Fleeing the storms of conflict that have so devastated the land of their birth, the Kumous, Ghassan and Assaf families are making our little foothills town their new home now, thanks to their perseverance in following their dreams of a better life this side of the rainbow, and thanks to the tireless efforts of many local volunteers in helping make their dreams come true.

Judy Garland beautifully celebrated such dream quests in the 1939 hit film, The Wizard of Oz when she sang: “Somewhere over the rainbow, / Skies are blue / And the dreams that you dare to dream / Really do come true.” In fact, Arlen and Harburg, the creative team behind this visionary song, saw it as a response to the nightmarish horrors of their own generation: the Holocaust.

By the way, my favourite rendition of “Over the Rainbow” is the one by the ukulele-strumming Hawaiian entertainer Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole (popularly known as “IZ”) in medley with “What a Wonderful World,” theme song of these columns.

Now about the painting. “Rainbow over Cochrane” is a 20 × 4 inch watercolour by Cochrane artist Dawn Piche, manager at Anything Grows Home. She painted it as a gift to me, inspired, she says, by a similar photo of mine I ran with my column for June 8, 2011.

Last week while Dawn and I were discussing the arrival of the Syrian families, I asked her for permission to run a copy of her painting with this week’s column. Immediately she saw the significance of her rainbow watercolour as a welcoming gesture for the new arrivals.

“Yes, by all means!” she said enthusiastically, and joins with me in extending a warm welcome to the Kumous, Ghassan and Assaf families.

Meanwhile, there’s something else Maya Angelou once said that offers a challenge for all of us to do our part: “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” A line from “What a Wonderful World” hints at one simple way: “The colors of the rainbow, / So pretty in the sky, / Are also on the faces / Of people passing by.”

And to our new neighbours I say: May you wake up this side of the rainbow now in peace and security, with the clouds of fear far behind you.


© 2016 Warren Harbeck

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