I was running through some blogs this morning, reading some, skipping along others when I came to “. . .other dreams” the fine blog written by dguzman. I’d advise you take a look today, for she’s written a lovely piece about a Holocaust survivor. And in doing so, she reminded me, at least, that today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Some of you might have watched the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie the other night, “The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler.” It, like “Schindler’s List” before it, documented the real life hero, Irena Sendler, a Christian Pole, who became dedicated to saving the children of the Warsaw Ghetto from the Nazi killing machine.
Ms. Sendler, managed at great risk to herself, to save 2,500 children from death in the extermination camps. She literally smuggled them out and turned them over to Polish families willing to take them in and protect them.
She was saved from execution herself and went on to live to I believe 98, before he death a few years ago.
Of equal amazement is the fact that her story comes to us via a group of Kansas high school students who uncovered this unknown story and ultimately wrote a play called “Life in a Jar.” It was called that because Irena kept the names and family names of all her children in jars, along with their Polish “parents” hoping against hope that after the war they could be re-united with family again.
Dguzmen, in relating the story of one woman’s survival in the camps, marvels at the strength of the human spirit, and the movie about Irena Sendler does much the same. Indeed, we have all had occasion to be awed by the power of the fight to survive that we witness over and over again during all kinds of disasters of life. Dguzman wonders at this, as we all do, when as she says, it would have been so much easier to do something to enrage her captors and be executed and end her misery.
It caused a somewhat different reaction for me, I must say. While I too marvel at the resiliency of the human spirit, faced with pain and great agony, and how we trudge through it somehow and someway, I was struck by how these stories surface in the first place.
I recall reading where someone once asked Mother Theresa how she managed doing what she did, amid the misery and utter horror of Calcutta and those she ministered to. She said something to the effect, that in looking at each, “she saw the face of Jesus,” thus implying, that really she could not not help.
Perhaps one of the most powerful statements in all of sacred writing is that of Matthew 25:31-44. Jesus teaches that as we care for the least of mankind, be they prisoners, sick, hungry, strangers, we care for Him. This is what Mother Theresa imaged so clearly among the hopeless of Calcutta.
Yet, sadly we all to often fail to image Christ in the faces of those we meet, as did Theresa and Irena and Oskar Schindler. Indeed as all those we revere as truly expressing empathy and Christian brotherhood. Somehow we can separate out people as “other” all too often. I think we listen to them, observe them, and conclude that Jesus cannot reside in them. Thus we are able to justify subconsciously our turning away in anger, hatred, or merely cold indifference.
If you think as I, that Jesus or the God spirit, lives within all, then you really can’t use that paltry excuse it seems. So I search for a better way to remind myself to take care with God when I run up against the “difficult” person.
This is what triggered a thought when I read dguzman’s lovely post. The story, the story, the story. We are all of us filled with story. Each of us has tragedy and joy to relate, overcoming of odds, falling just short, foibles and triumphs, embarrassments and hidden gems of wisdom and truth to offer.
Sure the Jacques Cousteau’s of the world have obvious stories of adventure and tales of daring to delight us. And the Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s have their stories of great sacrifice and strength as well. But aunt Susie’s long struggle with raising an autistic son in the 50’s and current battle with arthritis are also compelling.
Moreover, aunt Susie is more like us, normal, not special, not destined to be known worldwide. We can relate to her struggles and we can though that hearing, learn to bear our own a bit better. The Mother Theresa’s and such of the world are too high for us to grasp and relate to our own lives.
So when you meet that person who just drives you crazy, who is stubborn and won’t agree that the sun rises in the East, don’ t go off in a huff. Maybe you truly can’t interact with this person effectively, but you can still judge them gently, wondering what an amazing story they must have to tell that turned them into the irascible person you’ve determined them to be.
Maybe it’s not exactly like seeing the face of Jesus in such a one, but maybe its a start. And trying, each and every day, to be just a little bit more understanding, forgiving, and gentle, is a lot like seeing Jesus in every face.