This blog is called "language of conflict" because it focuses on the ways, often verbal, in which we either talk our way further into out of (or back into) strife.
Then, of course, there are the little acts. The good acts that replace the need for words. Yesterday a Holocaust survivor told me this short story that had nothing to do with our interview. I woke up this morning with the story still so deeply in my heart- I decided to let it out by sharing it with you.
This woman, who I'll call Claire, and her family survived the Holocaust and escaped to the United States. Her mother survived in a prison and her father escaped a camp. Upon arrival in the U.S. a Jewish group placed their family an old apartment in Brooklyn where here father began to work at a factory. Not an old man, only in his mid-50s, he was too weakened from his Holocaust-camp forced labor to be of much use. A younger man noticed his weakened state and would lay part of his completed work on the older man's pile everyday so that the factory manager thought the man was keeping up. Every day the young man added to the older man's pile.
Eventually the family invited him over for dinner, mostly to befriend their isolated son. The son had holes in his legs from malnutrition during the war. He kept to himself and refused to come out of his room to meet the nice young man who saved his father's job. So, they forced Claire to keep him company. The man was taken with this 14-year-old girl and told her father the next day at the factory.
My daughter is too young, he told the young man. The young man was 10 years her senior. So, the man came back every Sunday to drink coffee and eat oranges with the Claire while the parents watched from the other room. When she turned 15, he asked her to the movies with the parents permission. He pursued Claire steadily and eventually the parents allowed him to marry her.. They married when she turned 17 and are still married today.
This story sounds like a fictional parable.
The image of the young man piling his work on the old man's work station everyday is stunning. He did not know the older man had a daughter and that he would be married to her for over 50 years.
Thankfully amidst all these stories about torture and survival, I hear many love stories. Perhaps I will write about more of them after all this.
Stories about the Resistance become so political- families and nations desperately want good by telling tales of being on the "right side" of history. Love stories defy political lines. Love stories feel like a moment's visit from a hummingbird -- a brief pause between stories of torture and devastation. Just two people brought together in the context of their times...Many survivors tell me they no longer believed in God, but many still believe in love. Love clearly has not healed all wounds, they tell me they are afraid at night and still see horrible images flash before them. They fall into depressions and become saddened about the world. So, I wonder if that might not be love's job to heal all these wounds, maybe its ours. Not by erasing their pain, rather by simply paying them a visit, caring about them and