Of the twenty-seven hundred people who visited the United States as Experimenters in 1967, a Swiss girl wrote this letter of appreciation which shows how thoroughly she understood The Experiment.
| || |
Camp Hill, August 9, 1967
Dear Dr. Watt,
"To learn to live together by living together" is a sentence which is well-known to all of us who come together today for celebrating you as the founder of the Experiment in International Living, a movement spread out over the whole world, seizing more and more people.
I am a Swiss girl and since some days have been trying to transfer the idea of the Experiment into reality. Thanks to you I got the chance to live together with some American families to see how they work, how they feel, what they think. And I hope also, that my hosts will get an impression of my fatherland. the future will show if I will be successful.
Years ago you started and today we find more and more Experimenters in more and more countries. I think that is a small shimmer of hope, that the understanding among the nations is increasing in spite of all the horrible things which happen in the world. After my opinion we can not judge a people from far away. Even the few days I am here showed me that my picture of the United States was often wrong. I see better and better that all the men on the earth are more similar than we often think. And I believe to become conscious of that fact is the best contribution to world peace.
All the present, past and future Experimenters thank you much for your splendid idea, the building of Experiment.
It is certainly unusual to use a prayer as a foreword for a book. The following prayer was pronounced by the Reverend Donald C. Wilson, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The occasion was a meeting of over three hundred Experiment hosts from southeastern Pennsylvania who met in Lancaster August 8, 1967 "to honor a native son."
O thou who didst speak thy word to us and clothe that Word in the body of thy Son, we praise thee for the gift of communication. We thank thee for all thy servants who have broken down the walls that separate man from man and opened to us opportunities of sharing our common humanity. For curiosity as to what's on the other side, for the guilelessness that is ready to learn, for the conviction that is ready to speak---we give thee thanks.
Forgive the smugness and the indolence by which we hinder the free traffic of ideas, goodwill, affection among the peoples of the nations.
Bless with thy favor thy servant, Donald, and all those of large mind and loving heart who are teaching others to nurture the tender plant of human brotherhood. As we have mastered Nature so as to be able to speak to the whole world, help us now to master the relations among men so I that we have something redemptive to say, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
LESLIE AND I WERE HAVING COCKTAILS WITH THE BILL DARROW, JR.'S, IN OUR village of Putney, Vermont. He is a second-generation apple scientist and grower. Often at the end of a busy winter day, we pause to enjoy the open fire and other things that cheer; or on a long summer evening, our neighbors, the Darrows and the Hellers, gather to play on our bowling green. Bill is proud of the excellent martinis he makes, and, naturally enough as an apple grower, of his old-fashioned hard cider which he calls Old Bubbly.
I was sitting between Bill's wife, Idolene Darrow, and her mother, Ida Belle Hegemann. Somehow we spoke of biographies, and I remarked that since the world-wide celebration of my seventieth birthday, people were saying that I should write my memoirs. Both ladies were immediately enthusiastic about the idea. When I said that I had trouble getting started, Ida Belle said she had taken dictation and typed many of the professional books which her husband had written. That settled the matter---almost. Since there were a score or more of two-foot filing drawers jammed with letters and records going back to the first year of The Experiment in International Living in 1932, 1 felt I must first read through all that. Ida Belle solved this problem by pointing out that all the research should come later. She said that I should simply begin to write, and so we did, either composing or dictating material which I found.
One of the things that turned up in the files was a large old envelope on the back of which, written in Leslie's clear handwriting, were the words,
"Begun on the S.S. Westerdam, September 26, 1951, sailing home after eight months in Europe."
I had been thinking about my autobiography as far back as that.
Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse.
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
She shall have music wherever she goes.
My hobby and my life work were the same. It is to my father and to my wife that I am indebted for this. He gave me the money, and she saved it for me. Riding my hobby, I have been conscious of the happy music of congenial work.
The childish jingle has been repeated by thousands who have no idea where Banbury is, nor what the Cross might be. Perhaps the music of the words alone kept it from falling into oblivion, as thousands of other less lucky jingles have certainly done. The wayside shrine in a medieval English village has long since joined the dust of the mothers and children who enjoyed the jingle. By what magic did these words happen to come into my mind? The words were stronger than stone and bone. They lived through the centuries to symbolize the story of my life.
It's a lot of fun attempting to set down my early life from a distance of over half a century. The memory of things done becomes clearer as I make an effort to recall them. One memory picture leads to another---old photographs can be trusted to tell the truth and conversations with old friends bring out things I had forgotten. In old trunks and boxes I found letters and articles, but most important of all were The Experiment files. The greatest surprise was to find that although I had never kept a diary consistently, I had written down at length many accounts of interesting incidents. Putting all of these in chronological order, I read them to Ida Belle Hegemann who typed and filed them, waiting for the day when the separate parts would be strung together.
After Ida Belle and I had been working off and on for six months, we found that we had made considerable progress and I asked several people to criticize what we had done.
Neighbor Chas Jones was one of the people who read an early version: he pointed out that the readers would enjoy the story of my life before The Experiment started if they understood how my early experiences were directly related to the History of the Experiment, Book II. It seemed like a good idea to tell the readers in advance what this relationship was. I decided that the best way to do this was to write a brief synopsis for each of the chapters of Book I pointing out how it was related to the development of the Experiment.
Jack Wallace (Dr. John), the Executive Vice-President of The Experiment, also read an early draft and one of his notes was: "You have evolved a very interesting tapestry in which the warp is D.B.W. and his experiences, and the woof is the growth of The Experiment. I find this a most effective technique."
In order to assist readers to weave their own tapestry, I here include a description of the Experiment. It aims not only to describe The Experiment but also to indicate what its spirit is. The passage is quoted from the advertising brochure called "Crossroads of the year 1950."
In its effort to develop direct and effective education for international co-operation, The Experiment starts with an individual like Powelson, believing that if one person can be trained to understand and to work with the people of other countries, the world, by this single relationship, is an infinitesimal step closer to a state of peace. The important instrument is the educational method which produces people like Powelson. In this method, the emphasis is on the individual. It aims to give him a vivid experience with his own problems in international cooperation. Living with a family abroad provides this opportunity. Here experience is his teacher. A home is his classroom. Whether he "passes" or "fails" he alone decides.
However, the individual is not entirely alone. He has the inspiration of companions whose aims are similar and the guidance of an experienced leader.
Turning a "foreigner" into a friend is a difficult undertaking. As in other problems of human relations, science has not yet taught us a great deal about it. However, in eighteen years of conducting a controlled experiment in international living, this organization has begun to isolate certain educational principles. The fundamental ones are as follows:
People learn to live together by living together.
The home is the greatest educational institution in the world.
Success in living in a home abroad depends upon careful organization.
Donald B. Watt
Part One, Chapter One