Abode {W}

Sunday, April 10, 2011

this and that

Ella (pictured above) and I got to visit Auschwitz when we were in Poland three years ago. She was only eleven years old at the time, but she really wanted to go, and she did just fine processing all that we saw. Last night, at the school she and Graham attend part time, an old man who survived the Holocaust spoke. We knew it would be so hard to hear his story-the enormity of what he suffered is sobering and unfathomable. We also knew that, 66 years after the war ended, to hear the story from an eyewitness is becoming a rare thing. This man is 85, and the last survivor in Oregon. He is delightful! He is a tiny old man with a big smile who still holds himself perfectly upright and was dressed in a suit and tie and shiny shoes. He is just as cute as can be, and I just wanted to hug him. Then he starts to speak. He tells you that he is not normal-he can be in the middle of a conversation and all of a sudden hear the angry voices of his guards berating him, the screams of his fellow prisoners, the barking of the dogs. He has nightmares almost every night, and can not shower with out weeping for his mother and little brother who were gassed. He can still picture his dead father's face after discovering him in a mass grave, shot by the Nazis for no good reason. 123 of his family members were killed, only he and four cousins survived. Pretty heavy stuff, isn't it? I was unsure about taking my children to hear him. I know they can handle it, and I want them to know this history so that they will never fall in to the trap of judging others and believing them to be inferior based on hair or skin color or nationality. But the weight of the losses in our family still rests heavily on their minds, and I do not want them to become morbid or depressed, or worried about the "what ifs". Ultimately, it was good for them. We had a great discussion on the way home about love, and about how "he who makes you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities". This man forgave the Germans, and realized that he could be, in his own words, better or bitter. I feel as if his story should inspire me to be a better person-to not let little things annoy me, to forgive and let go of hurts, to love deeply and with out fear, to spend my days being joyful and grateful. The reality is that my lofty aspirations to improve myself are so often crowded out by all of the cares and worries and duties I have, and I forget to be joyful, grateful, and slow to anger. I get in "just get me through the day alive with my sanity intact" mode and just plow my way through the work of the day. I seem to have lost my way somehow, lost my desire to try to be nobler, more patient, loving, joyful. The last few years have been fraught with so much stress and sorrow and craziness that I feel as if I have nothing left to give, even to myself. So! To end on a positive note (because I am really not as gloomy as I sound) I have been reminding myself that these things take time, and I am an impatient person. I want things instantly, and when I don't get them, I sometimes lose interest. I am sure that Alter Weiner's decision to forgive and not be bitter caused some long, hard won battles within himself-it probably took him years and years, and it may even be a daily decision for him, something that does not come easily. According to the farmer, his family motto is "FORTITUDE" and so, I suppose that I should, after being part of the family for almost 19 years, adopt the family's motto!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had a very moving [emotionaly] evening. I find myself getting teary just thinking about what you must have heard from such a brave man. To be able to forgive and not be bitter after all he has been through--beautiful! I do hope you enjoy today and remember that there is someone in SC who is thinking about you and will say your name in her prayers.