Consider the following: Michael de Groot is a middle school student who wants to be a scientist and talks constantly about his idol, Bill Nye. He never thought that one day he would be able to actually meet Bill in person. Michael thinks Bill is smart and funny, and he regularly uses phrases from the “Bill Nye the Science Guy” show in conversation. Michael is so enthusiastic about science that his parents often have to remind him that his bedroom is not the best place to conduct experiments.
One spring day Michael’s sister Kelly, a student at Villanova University, noticed a classmate had posted a picture of herself posing with Bill Nye. She found out the student had an internship on the United States House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and that was how she met the scientist. Kelly casually commented how much her brother loved Bill Nye, and they struck up a conversation. The kind student offered to contact someone related to the committee to see if they could possibly set up a meeting between Michael and Bill. Kelly was grateful for the offer, but wasn’t sure that it would actually come to be and didn’t want to get Michael’s hopes up.
January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp Auschwitz. On this day I stop to remember, and ponder, and listen. I reflect upon the atrocities committed by a group of people driven by greed and a lust for power, blinded by prejudice. I pause to hear the voices that cried out, yet were silenced too soon. I will not forget them.
Many do not realize the extensiveness of the list of groups targeted by the Nazis. It included not only Jews, but also “Gypsies, Poles and other Slavs, and people with physical or mental disabilities.” During their quest for racial purity the Nazis strove to eliminate the “unfit” as well as any who would oppose their quest for domination.
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “The Nazi persecution of persons with disabilities in Germany was one component of radical public health policies aimed at excluding hereditarily “unfit” Germans from the national community. These strategies began with forced sterilization and escalated toward mass murder.”
“On July 14, 1933, the German government instituted the “Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases.” This law called for the sterilization of all persons who suffered from diseases considered hereditary, including mental illness, learning disabilities, physical deformity, epilepsy, blindness, deafness, and severe alcoholism. With the law’s passage the Third Reich also stepped up its propaganda against the disabled, regularly labeling them “life unworthy of life” or “useless eaters” and highlighting their burden upon society.”
“Burden upon society.” Lives deemed as less than precious. Of no value. I grieve all the lives lost during the Nazi’s cleansing campaign, but as the mother of a child with special needs this knowledge especially brings me great sorrow. As I gaze into my son’s sweet face I wonder~ would his life had been one that was deemed as dispensable?
Every year it seems that my house is last one on our street with Christmas lights still shining. I like to leave them up until around Epiphany/ Three Kings Day. To me it feels too hurried to spend a month of frenzied preparation, only to have it culminate abruptly in two days of even more frenzied celebration (depending on your family situation). The very next day we all seem far too ready to simply move on with our regular lives, because “Christmas is over.”
I need more than that. I need time to simply sit, and revel, and bask, and it seems that it is only in the stillness of the days following all the activity of celebration that I finally find Christmas. Once I find it I also wish to keep it for as long as possible. I totally understand that some people want a fresh, orderly start in time for the New Year, and that’s what works for them. But in my experience no celebration of a New Year feels complete without also bringing along the last of the light of Christmas. It serves as a beacon of love, and joy, and hope; illuminating our path for the new days ahead.
I gaze upon those lights of ours, rending the darkness one last night, and I try to draw their brightness deep into my heart. Their warmth reminds me of this truth:
Christmas has come, Christmas is here, and Christmas will remain.
I can cling to that, even if I find myself in the dark.
May the light of Christmas continue to shine for each of you this New Year.