It’s been a week of pressing on and so I pause to press some letters to build some words to stack some sentences in order to claim celebration. In a way, it feels like an act of rebellion.
A long time ago (it almost feels like another life time), I was a 7th grade language arts teacher and had the opportunity to go to a conference at the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. It was the first conference I attended as an educator. It remains the one which has impacted me the most.
It was a four day conference. In the morning there were traditional conference sessions about teaching students about the Holocaust. Each afternoon was devoted to speakers who experienced different aspects of the Holocaust. There was a concentration camp survivor, a member of the Hitler Youth, a rabbi, the daughter of someone who died in the Warsaw ghetto, an American soldier…the experience of hearing stories was moving, but their words have faded over the years.
One speaker, though, wove her words into my soul and changed me in fundamental ways. She was young on the night of Kristallnacht, The Night of Broken Glass. This was a turning point event in 1938 when store windows and synagogues were destroyed. The speaker remembered the sounds of shattering store windows and shrieking families. She was supposed to smash the glass alongside her friends, but she couldn’t. She stood and listened. She didn’t destroy.
In that moment she became a resistor.
I began learning as much as I could about resistors during the Holocaust. They were remarkable and risky. As a teacher, I often angled our focus of the Holocaust toward resistors. As a human, I never felt like much of a resistor.
One of my favorite resistor groups of the Holocaust was the White Rose. They used their words to speak out against the Nazi Regime. They were a non-violent underground group of German college students who gave hope with their words in leaflets and graffiti. I like to think I would have found kindred spirits in the White Rose.
It is a lie to believe we must claw, fight and destroy to get our ways in the world today. Sometimes it seems acceptable to be mean back. The world says to speak your mind and be bold. Kindness is sometimes hard to find when people stand up for causes.
Right now, in my tiny corner of the world, the community is rallying around teachers. As a member of the school board, I have been receiving emails, letters, and phone calls from people who want me to hear their stories. Week by week, the newspaper unfolds more of the story.
I’ve been struck by the way Story fights harder than ugly words.
The beauty of a school board is the way it is a group of individuals who function collectively. I have deep respect for those who serve on the Board. Board members lives have been usurped in the past few weeks and it has been difficult to give business and families and other duties attention. It has been exhausting.
The stories continue to flood our inboxes, mailboxes and voicemails.
I’m realizing the best response is listening. It’s not flashy. It doesn’t yield immediate results. And it’s hard. You want to say more, offer encouragement or hope or promises that things will be better. Sometimes you want to defend yourself or those you serve alongside. You want to tell the rest of the story. You want everyone to stand together and sing “We are the Champions” as one big community singalong. (Cue the rainbows and butterflies.)
Instead I listen and allow stories to wrap around my heart. No matter what, there are going to be people in our community who feel their voices don’t matter. There are always two sides to every issue.
It is my hope (no matter how Pollyanna it might be) that rather than splitting sides, we keep listening to finally find a single story that will unite rather than divide.
Share your celebrations…