"experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted." -randy pausch

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

in my hands

in my hands:
memories of a holocaust rescuer
"I did not ask myself, Should I do this? But How will I do this? Every step of my childhood had brought me to this crossroad; I must take the right path, or I would no longer be myself."
(pg. 142)
when i finished this book i felt like i had just met the most amazing woman to have ever lived.
i realize this is an overarching statement, and i mean no disrespect to all of the other amazing women who have lived and taught us so much.
it's just what i thought when i finished this book.
i marveled at the life experiences irene had to go through.
the sacrifices she made to save others.
sacrifices i don't think i would have made myself.
let's just say, i think i would have been the first one in the life boat when the titanic was sinking.
i think she would have gone down with the ship.
in all of the horror she saw, i imagine that no words can truly portray what really happened during the holocaust.
as i sobbed throughout one massacre to the next i thought, "and this isn't even the half of it."
i found the following quote chilling:
"On the edge of a field I saw a peasant's cottage, it's door open. Once, as a child, I had a farm outside Radam. It has a house like this one, with timber walls painted bone white, and a thatched roof. We had gone on a Sunday in the spring, when the farmer was taking down the bales of hay he had mounded around his house for winter insulation. As he pulled down the hay, scores of mice that had been nesting inside all winter scattered in every direction, squeaking frantically, while the farmer's sons chased them and killed them with sticks. I had stood shuddering with horror as the mice fled their home--that was like what I was watching now, but this was on such a large scale that I could not take it in. I could not believe what I was seeing." (pg.24)
i was most impressed with the perseverance irene displayed, purely out of understanding what it meant to just be a human.
she put aside her own desires, her own needs, her own life.
all to save other humans.
how many of us could say we would do the same in her situation?
the most thought provoking quote in the book for me follows:
"I did not ask myself, Should I do this? But, How will I do this? Every step of my childhood had brought me to this crossroad; I must take the right path, or I would no longer be myself." (pg. 142)
it made me think about the paths i am chosing for my own life right now.
have i taken any paths or am i on any paths that are leading me away from myself?
the person i desire to be?
i've heard that true character is who you are when no one is watching.
when there is no prize or show to be won.
when we are stripped of everything and left with a choice.
what would i do?
sometimes i choose myself.
sometimes i choose others.
sometimes i choose right.
others wrong.
part of life and learning, of course, is learned through both right and wrong choices.
being selfish in one moment, and learning to be selfless the next.
irene left me feeling like she felt like she thought wasn't doing enough.
hard for me to imagine.
as i look at her story i marvel at all that she was able to accomplish.
what makes irene outstanding is her ability to do all she can, and still search for the energy to do more.
and to think i almost didn't read this book.
i'm a better person for making irene's story a part of my life.
in college we compared our society in america to the society in japan.
our society is considered individualistic.
it's the "climb the ladder to get to the top, even if you have to claw over someone else" mentality.
the japanese society is based upon collectivism.
work as a team.
don't leave anyone behind.
wouldn't it be great if we could meet in the middle somewhere?
irene knew the right thing to do.
most of us know the right thing to do.
how often do we do it?
i don't mean just in the big choices.
i mean when you're merging on the freeway, standing in line at the grocery store, putting your cart back in the cart return, and so forth.
it seems that the simple choices are reflective of the complicated choices in life.
irene didn't know how she was going to rescue the holocaust victims she saved,
but she knew she had to do it.
she knew it was the right thing to do.
"How could I presume to be their savior? And yet I had promised. I had to do it." (pg. 164)
was it wrong for the people who didn't help as irene did?
isn't saving yourself and your family a right choice as well?
who is to say that one person's choice is right for the person next to them.
i don't have the answer.
john lennon, smart man.
imagine what could be accomplished if every person in the world began a task that they knew they had to do b/c it was the right thing to do, even if they had no idea how they were going to accomplish their end result.
amazing things.
amazing things could be accomplished.
your comments and thoughts please.


Amy said...

Honestly, I can't leave thoughts as detailed as yours. I feel like I had to run through the book just to get to the end. As I said earlier, I don't do well with WWII. I can't handle thinking about the horrors those people went through. She really is a strong woman. To be so young and to do so much. To put herself completely aside... even some of her deeply held standards because she knew that was the only way to keep them alive. I don't know if I could do that. I sobbed through much of the book. I skipped the parts where she saw the soldiers treating the prisoners like rabid mice. I am still amazed by how it really didn't seem like it was a choice to her. It was something she had to do. End of story. I love that she never gave up. Even when things seemed hopeless she was still able to press forward. She was still able to make things work. Caught between two armies, two governments that wanted her dead, not knowing who to trust, but still going on. Yes, I am glad I read the book. It was hard. I don't like to believe that people can do horrible things like the holocaust to eachother. I can't believe it. I have to believe that people are like Irene. Willing to give up everything to push the right forward. Irene believed with her whole sole "All that's necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing." (- Edmund Burke)and she lived it. I know this is long and I have lots more I could say, but it seems to be rather redundant. So to recap:
Good book. Made me cry. Made me evaluate what more I can do to help good triumph.

Emmy said...

You are right, if we could have that balance between individuals and collectivism life would be good. We should be able to exceed and excel, especially if we work hard. But along the way why not grab someone's hand and help teach them what we are doing and how they can help themselves.

Lisa said...

WOW, thank you for your condensed version of the the book & your thoughts...such complete sadness that she lived thru. This would make me have nightmares- but it seems that it opened your mind to more and more thoughts of live. cool

Snarky Belle said...

I will be reading this book, most definitely. Thank you for sharing your insights. Beautiful.

Dana said...

I think my little sister was telling me about this woman awhile back. Thanks for reminding me that I want to read the book. Holocaust stories amaze me. The evils were unbelievable. But the stories of sacrifice and selflessness are also incredible. One of my favorite movies is "life is beautiful" (can you tell?...it's the title of my blog). Do you remember that movie? I saw it for the first time at Beth's house...you were probably there, too. Anyway, I love that movie because it reminds me that no matter what your situation, you can find, create, or even imagine, beauty in your life.