Many years ago I had the privilege of meeting a Holocaust survivor during a chance encounter in the store. She was a gracious, gentle woman who had been imprisoned as a child. The numbers on her arm were a painful reminder of the dark acts of which humans are capable.
What stayed with me the most was that the hand-inked numbers on her arm started out uniform, but then became more and more uneven and jagged. My heart wept as I pictured that small child fighting against the torture of each new number with increasing intensity. It broke my heart to know that someone so young had experienced such horrors.
When I became a mother those images took on new meaning. I learned that Nazis not only targeted Jews, but also waged a eugenics campaign against those with disabilities. The evils of the Holocaust somehow seemed even more horrifying with the realization that my own child could have been a target.
Is he more safe in today’s world than he would have been back then? Is society more accepting, more caring, more unified?
Let us strive to be better. Let us not forget the evils of the past, or we risk making the same mistakes again.
I reflected upon these things when I first wrote a post about that life-altering encounter, and I thought it seemed appropriate to revisit on Holocaust Remembrance Day :
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 expansiveness 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. Continue reading
Another day, another “feel-good” story. But what if these stories actually do more harm than good? Before you judge me for being cynical, let me explain.
What often happens is there is a person who has some sort of disability and they might also need some assistance. Then some “typical” person decides to be kind and help them. Usually that’s fine. Great even. We should reach out to our fellow humans. The world needs more genuine compassion and caring.
Sometimes a third-party happens to witness the scene, and interprets it as the grand gesture of an amazingly generous individual who took their time to help out a poor, pitiable and helpless disabled person. Then pictures are taken without asking the permission of all the parties involved, because they want to spread the amazing, feel-good story throughout all kinds of news outlets and social media platforms. Still sound great?
There is nothing inherently wrong with positive stories about people with disabilities or tales of good deeds. It’s the motivation behind it or the way the subject is handled that can be problematic. Sometimes the individual performing the good deed or telling the story does so with motives other than just being kind to someone else; sometimes they do it for notoriety.
In other cases I don’t doubt that the overall intention of the story tellers was good, yet somehow things took a turn. Often that is the fault of the tactics used by the media, who love a heart-tugging, viral story. News sources often spread these “feel-good” messages at the expense of the dignity of their subjects, presenting the person with a disability as merely a pawn in someone else’s story. It is designed to make US, not them, “feel good,” and praises and elevates the person performing the “good deed.” These stories do all that at the expense of the recipient, often without their consent. Stories like this are commonly referred to as “Inspiration Porn.” Continue reading
Far too many frightening things happen in our world, and recent violent events weigh heavy on my heart. These events cause concern about what the future will bring for not just the world but for my own children. It also makes me wonder what, if anything, I should tell them about the harsh stories in the news.
One afternoon I was out running errands with my oldest son, and checked my phone after pulling into a parking space. I saw a news alert that the number of dead from a horrifying attack had just been raised. Without thinking about it, an “OH NO!” escaped my lips. Then I sat in stunned silence, overwhelmed with worry about the state of our broken world. The world my children will inherit.
From the backseat I heard a small, concerned voice. “What is it, Mommy?”
I had a choice to make. Part of me wanted him to stay innocent and pure. To keep believing in the goodness of his fellow human beings. The other part of me wanted him to know that there is evil out there and he must be on guard against it. Should I keep protecting him from the harsh realities of this world we live in, or was he old enough to understand?
I took a deep breath, and began speaking with a shaky voice, Continue reading
It is still Acts of Kindness Week! Today we have a guest post from Claire, who is the mother a young man who spreads joy all year long to those he meets. Kannan also has Williams Syndrome, which seems to help him look past the things that may cause others to make assumptions or have feelings of prejudice. Instead, Kannan has the ability to look right into someone’s soul and love them unconditionally. This year he received a very special Valentine’s gift from an unexpected source; two admirers and new friends who wished to show their appreciation for his enthusiasm and acceptance. Here’s what Kannan’s mother has to say:
Kannan has always had an effect on people. I’ll never forget the day my doorbell rang and I opened it to find a lady standing at my door with a box of red popsicles. I recognized her from my son’s school and I knew red popsicles were my son’s favorite treat. My son, Kannan, was in early elementary school at the time. Apparently he had made quite an impression on her! A year or so later my doorbell rang again, and I opened it to find a man standing there with a wrapped gift in his hand. He also worked at Kannan’s school, and was bringing him a birthday gift. It was a digital watch and he explained he thought it would help Kannan learn to tell time.
Kannan is now in middle school and recently he came home with an unexpected gift; Continue reading
Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to just be about romantic love, it can be a time to reach out and perform an act of kindness to brighten someone’s day. There is even a whole WEEK dedicated to it every year around February 14. For many years I have tried to find someone to reach out to in a positive way around this time. Sometimes it is by lending a helping hand, and other times it is in order to say “Thank you!” to someone who had a positive influence on others. Six years ago I helped classmates contact a former High School teacher, who was also very ill, because we wanted him to know that he had made a difference in the lives of countless students. Turns out it was just in time. Continue reading