carnet de route
Christmas under a tent  
My visit to Abbé Pierre  
Fight and celebrate  
At the jail of Fresnes  
Christmas under a tent  
Having celebrated Christmas on the premises of the « Homeless Committee » and shared a meal with them, I took the subway to go to the red tents Camp along the Saint Martin canal at the heart of Paris. It was midnight. It was bitterly cold.
There was a great atmosphere in front of the café which was the rallying point of the young association: « Les Enfants de Don Quichotte. » (Don Quichotte’ children) In the novel, Don Quichotte was fighting the windmills. Today, his children fight against the empty promises of the politicians.
Noël sous la tente To wake the awareness of the public opinion, the association invited those « comfortably housed » to share for one night the lot of those who live on the streets. I had received an invitation. I had answered: « it will be on Christmas night ».
The village of red tents along the canal train the spotlights on the harsh realities of those who have no roof over their head to sleep. Some of them have a job but they are unable to pay a rent that has become too costly.
This questioning of the authorities coming from the grass roots arrived at a convenient time. I admire how these young citizens, unknown to the public until then, have asserted themselves in the social issues in so short a time. In the midst of the campaign for the presidential elections, this crazy initiative has put the homeless at the heart of the political debate. A success.
The people in charge of the association are with me to go to the place where I will spend the night. They quickly put up the tent.
More than the icy cold, it was the noise coming from the traffic that kept me awake for a long while. On this Christmas night, I was happy to share the lot of those who usually sleep on the streets.
sans logis
haute en page  
My visit to Abbé Pierre  
In this season of greetings, I made a visit to Abbé Pierre and celebrated mass with him in the House of Emmaüs in the suburbs of Paris.  
Abbé Pierre et Jacques Gaillot In his small overheated dining room, Abbé Pierre embraced me fraternally. I found the 94 year old man weary and waiting to die. After a few personal exchanges, he asked me if I knew about his last book. Impossible to hide the truth : I did not know about it.
To make it up to me, he stood up and went to find on the encumbered shelves a large book with his picture on the front page : « My life in pictures ». I skimed through a few pages with interest.
The Abbé insisted to autograph his book for me. But his trembling hand was unable to write if not a few unreadable words.
images d'une vie
He was very happy that the President of the Republic had written to thank him for sending him his book.
In a bulky file, his trembling hand looks for this famous letter that gave him so much pleasure. A letter in fact very warm-hearted and filled with praise. The Abbé was cheered up. He expected a comment from me :
« You’re lucky. In my life, I have never received such a letter. »
Now he no longer goes out, he appreciates very much visits, letters and gifts. Solitude weighs heavily upon him. Has he not dedicated all his life to others ?
The dining table where we will be celebrating mass was filled with curious objects. They have a right to be there on this table because they are gifts. The mass begins with the story of each one of them.

The Abbé has difficulty to reading the text of the mass. He was exhausted.
When it was time to leave, I had the feeling it was a farewell.

Abbé Pierre died on Monday the 22 of January 2007 at 94 years old. He has been given a state funeral.
Founder of the Emmaus Community, author of the call to the public opinion in the Winter of 1954, he devoted his life to the fight against exclusions.
Abbé Pierre has been the hope of the poor.

c'est un adieu
haute en page  
Fight and celebrate  
Sacré Coeur Parents and their children coming from different schools had gathered near the funicular at the Sacred Hearth foothills. It was already dark. The lights gave a Christmas ambiance. The crowd was there to support parents with no official documents whose children were attending these schools. People had been arrested by the police, had been threatened of expulsion. Every time there was an extraordinary show of solidarity.
I was invited to step to the platform. The spectacle of a crowd stretching out at the foothills was impressive. What I had to say became obvious.  
« There was a time to fight. Fights were long and difficult. Tonight is a time to celebrate. Fighting calls for celebration. Celebrating helps us to continue to fight with renewed hope.
You have told me : « If there is no celebration, we will be unable to continue . When the fight is tough, we need to have festivities. »
Because we are celebrating tonight, we will be able to meet again tomorrow to coninue the fight. Have a great celebration! » 
haute en page  
At the jail of Fresnes  
attendre To meet a prisoner in jail is also to meet the families who go to visit the prisoners.
Before being admitted to the visitors’ room, we are obliged to pass some time together! One has to be able to wait and take all the necessary steps!
It is an opportunity to get acquainted with people coming to visit a husband, a son, a brother or a friend.
We feel close to one another. Do we not have in common a prisoner and our desire to visit him? I have admiration for some women who come from far away and who need to organize themselves to be able to leave their work and make arrangements for their children!
The warden stopped our conversation. It is time to go to the small visitors’ room with very little air.
After a minute or so, suddenly, a man I have never seen before arrived. It was the first meeting. To be quite honest we have been writing to each other for come time. However, it is something else to talk face to face.
The man in front of me is obviously glad that I visit him. He felt he was somebody because I took the time to come and visit him in a place where he is deprived of his freedom.
As usual, I ask no questions to a prisoner about his past.
We speak together on equal terms as if we have known each other for a long time.
sur pied d'égalité
He is very active and keeps occupied: sports, learning Spanish and Italian, going to lectures …He has a good moral.
When important visitors come to the jail, his cell is always shown to them as it is always well kept.
I made him laugh when I told him that he was in a better shape than I was.
He almost excused himself of being an atheist. For him, Christmas was a non-religious holiday.
I addressed him by his first name and talked to him in a familiar form, as in the letters I sent to him. However, for him, it was impossible to do so. Even if he wanted to, he was not able to do it.
A guard put an end to our conversation. Those 45 minutes passed by so quickly.