Technically, this Q&A for the famous fashion magazine (website) Elle.com is not a travel story. But my subject and I certainly had to travel a long way to meet up and talk in Rome, Italy.
Emmylou Harris, the iconic queen of country music, had traveled from her home in Nashville to see how she could do her part to alleviate the worst humanitarian crisis in decades; I had traveled from my home in Greensboro, N.C., to lead a summer session in foreign affairs reporting for a dozen amazing aspiring journalists, all women, from Wake Forest University.
It all came about because my good friend in Rome, Jill Drzewiecki with the Jesuit Refugee Service, had organized Emmylou’s visit as a potential fundraiser to help the wave after wave of immigrants flooding Europe in the summer of 2016, especially Italy. Jill asked if I would interview Emmylou and write a story. Yes, please, was my immediate response. Another friend at Elle, features editor Laura Abraham, opened the door to this story. I wrote two others, including one for Mongabay!
“I’m just a tiny part, a tiny drop,” she told me of her fundraising through music idea that was just forming. “But who knows what we can accomplish. I mean, how can you see so much pain and suffering and think that it’s normal? It’s not normal. But you have to have hope. You have to believe. You have to feel like you can make a difference.”
Emmylou and I talked for about an hour on the streets of Rome as the group she was with was touring a part of the city frequented by immigrants and never tourists. She was warm, candid and easy to talk with. That evening, I was invited to a rooftop concert by Emmylou at the home of the U.S. Ambassador for the UN Agencies. Me, a few other friends and about 50 priests. What a night. What a fabulous human being.