Battling Poverty With Pen and Lens
Have you been to see Phil Grout's "Jubilee" now on exhibit at the Carroll County Arts Center? Twice I moved around the room in silence, first absorbing and then becoming immersed in the sensitive beauty of pictures and words Phil has used to express this tribute to his Dad. And I knew I wanted to share a tribute, in my limited way, to the man behind the camera, as I know him.
I don't remember when we first met Phil. It seems as though we've always known him, but I know that is not so. There is no chronological order to the incidents included here just random samples of a relationship experienced over a period of a few years.
One Sunday evening I entered the sanctuary of a local church for a program. Spotlighted on a stand in the front of the dimly lighted room was an exquisite wood carving -- an old man clinging to his staff as he kneels where he has fallen, his broken crock of yogurt at his feet. Phil told of finding this sculpture in a village of India, and carrying it so carefully as he came homeward. I, too, have ridden the trains fo India; that he transported this delicate piece of art safely over miles covered in an Indian train is little short of a miracle in itself. But this was only the prologue to another story.
On Oct. 21, 1988, Hurricane Jane ripped through Bluefields, Nicaragua, leaving a path of destruction and devastation. Almost immediately upon reading about the storm, Phil left for Bluefields, taking his camera, rolls of film and some simple tools; but more important, eyes for seeing, ears for listening, hands for helping and a compassionate heart for reaching out. One evening, he shared his days and weeks in Nicaragua in slides and words, a most impressive combination. Out of that experience came his very graphic book, "Seeds of Hope."
Almost 10 years ago, our daughter-in-law fell, breaking one wrist in several places and dislocating the other elbow. Family and friends took over and the necessary care was given. But in the midst of the demands of an 8-month-old baby sister, and the pain and helplessness of his mother, a little 7-year-old boy wandered around the edge of life as he had known it. Morning after morning Phil came by, sat on the front porch steps and talked to our grandson and then saw him safety on the school bus.
For a period of time we attended the same church, frequently sharing in class discussion, and I sometimes sat in the service with Mary Lou while Phil sang in the choir. Then, my husband and I moved in another direction, and our paths did not cross very often. Late one afternoon several years later, I happened to meet Phil on a sidewalk in Westminster.
He bent down and I stood on tiptoes to share a bear hug. There he told me about his then-recent stay at Sheppard Pratt, and some of the events of the weeks and months prior to that.
As he talked, the tears that clouded my eyes became tears of joy. He was so happy with the impact this hospitalization meant on helping him acknowledge and accept himself for who he is, and as he is.
One evening, a few years earlier, some friends were in our home and after dinner we gathered to view some slides from India. Seated on our living room floor, in his soft-spoken voice and quiet manner, Phil told of his conversion experience.
There was no blinding flash, no moment pinpointed in time, but a growing awareness of Someone leading him to focus his camera in new directions, and to guide his pen along new paths of challenge and expression. In his prologue to Seeds of Hope, Phil shares this search so beautifully. By using his camera and pen so effectively, he has become a witness to and an advocate for the poverty-ridden, the disenfranchised and marginalized peoples of our world.
These "vignettes of memory" are probably long forgotten by Phil, but as I recall and appreciate them anew, my husband and I feel fortunate to know Phil Grout as friend.
The officers, delegates and members of the Carroll County Volunteer Firemen's Association, Inc., cordially thank your reporter, Ellie Baublitz, for attending our 72nd annual convention at Winfield on May 20.
The firemen of Carroll County need the recognition that she gave to us. We had invited other newspaper agents and cable TV, and she was the only one to show. For this, we are grateful.
It seems everyone wants a story if there is an emergency in the county or if a company does something wrong. There are lots more good stories that firemen don't get recognized for. We would like to have good working relations with the newspapers; this could be a start. . . .
Ralph E. Dull
The writer is secretary of the Carroll County Volunteer Firemen's Association.