From the darkest of times, a movie and the “Righteous of Nations”. A lesson for all of us…

Those who know me personally, know that I am a “filmie” and that it has been my privilege to support our Fallen Heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan with my good friend Jimmy and our Independent film “The Fence.”

The story of The Fence is very much at the core principle of CauseACTION – words without action are often, just words. Awareness is good. Action is what should come next.

There is perhaps no movie of our generation that makes this life-principle of taking action more explicit than “Schindler’s List.” Tragic beyond my ability to watch it more than once every couple of years, I see “Schindler’s List” as a redemption story.

How so, you ask?

Here is what I see – Oskar Schindler, an otherwise worldly, vain man atop his empire, pivots his life into a calling of heroic proportion and with unrelenting determination saves many generations of humanity.

His story is a perfect example of how and what we choose to do or not do can impact the lives of so many in ways that we, like Oskar Schindler may never witness in our lifetime.

For it only is after his death (decades later in the movie) that Schindler was recognized as one of Israel’s “Righteous of Nations”… an honor granted only to non-Jews who took action during the Holocaust. Often alone, The Righteous of Nations stared evil directly in the eye and saved as few as one… or as many as Schindler did.

Today’s Rich’s Rant asks a question I recently discussed with my 94-year-old Holocaust Survivor friend, “Irena”.

Irena lives right down the street from me. We met a couple of years ago in a grocery store check-out line… an everyday place, doing an everyday thing as every day people do.

I shared with her that I had just learned that one of my French Uncles had also been recognized as one of “The Righteous of Nations” for having saved a Jewish family in Occupied France during World War II. In fact, it was the Jewish family that he had rescued that pleaded his case for that recognition after the war.

For those of you who know your French history during this “Vichy” period of the war, France’s collaboration with Nazi deportations can be pretty contentious stuff. Not exactly dinner table conversation in most French homes, even 70 years later.

It was then that Irena said to me: “It was a time when ordinary people did extraordinarily good, and great things… and others did extraordinarily evil things to the innocents. Too many others did nothing”.

Now, of course, we are not living in the midst of World War II and the extraordinary moments as told in these movie stories. But as Irena pointed out, many others went unheralded and were no less righteous:

There was the Catholic family in her native Warsaw who saved her by taking her into their home as their maid; those in the Warsaw Ghetto (including her father who was killed then) who rose up to fight the Germans in the Warsaw Uprising; the Red Cross volunteers in a post-war shattered Europe who were so critical to Irena’s repatriation and her new American life. And there was my Uncle who I never knew.

Many of us have probably played out the “what if” scenario in our heads after watching “Schindler’s List,” “Sophie’s Choice” or more recently, “The Zookeeper’s Wife.”

So, the question is this…

Have you reconsidered the ways, however modest, when you might also be called to take action? Have you befriended your own “Inner-Schindler”? When was the last time you two met and said “hello” to each other?

Schindler’s spirit is there in you too, you know.

Yes, his circumstances were extraordinary, but in the end, he saw what others also saw, and he acted with the means he had, just like my French Uncle… or you or I have today, here and now.

So, let me encourage you to keep in mind my friend Irena’s words and the epilogue to Schindler’s life –

As flawed and failed as Schindler was, he saw and acted with all the means he had at his disposal. It was Schindler’s action that proved so powerfully life-giving and redemptive for generations to come. And for the most part, he did not live long enough to see it all unfold. No matter. We know. Irena knows.

You and I are no less flawed and failed… and no less capable of the same righteousness!

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