Not exactly a typical Christmas or Hanukkah message but let me suggest that perhaps it is, in a Reprise of a previous “Rich’s Rants”.
As we approach Christmas and Hanukkah, I believe there is a common thread between these two Holy Days – each, a celebration of renewal and Redemption offered to each of us who chooses Forgiveness and Grace.
For Christian, we celebrate the Birth of The Savior. Christ, the Son of our Heavenly Father, the Sacrifice is born onto the world… to be a light on the footpath of our lives.
For those of Jewish faith it, Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of the relighting of the “ner tamid”, the eternal flame located in the Temple. After years of pain and bloodshed, it is said that a single portion of oil lasted eight days, a light that led the Maccabees to re-dedication to their Faith and commitment to God.
Good Lord in Heaven, there should be little doubt that Mankind, granted by our Creator the freedom to willfully choose, was then and is still now, in need of Redemption. Not much has changed since Cain bashed in his brother Abel’s head in a jealous rage.
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 of our CauseACTION efforts. Our core belief is that whether you find yourself in a personal, spiritual or for that matter political setting, words without action are 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 monied 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.
While it has been some time since I first had this conversation let me tell you about 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. We became fast friends.
Soon into our conversations, I shared with her that I had learned recently that one of my French Uncles had been recognized as one of “The Righteous of Nations” for having saved two Jewish family in Occupied France during World War II. In fact, it was one of those families that had pleaded his case for the unique recognition by the Nation of Israel. Like Schindler, this recognition was only granted to Gentiles who had stood in the gap and risked their own lives to save others.
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. But far 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!
P.S. A gentle and respectful post-script for those who might be inclined to write me to argue the theological merits, points “truth” or my failure to say, qualify, parse, lay claim and what-have-you. Please spare me. You have no idea how completely disinterested I am with those arguments that are to no good purpose. They are, in my view distractions that keep us from discovering and acting on what we were intended to do. Put differently, I have met and been chastised by too many people who are “so Heavenly-bound they are no Earthly good”.
To be clear, I don’t love and “respect” you any more or less. I am keenly aware of a number of the traffic tickets I should have gotten. I know I will sit on the Bema Seat to account for some of the red lights I ran.
But this I believe (and I recommend to you)… there will be the one and only question that concerns this flawed man today – “So, just what did you do with the Talents I loaned you”? Did you put them to purpose? Did you do your part?
That is what CauseACTION is about. Taking action and encouraging you to put your Talents to purpose in people’s lives. In this season and in this day when there is so much darkness, let us all re-double to find our “Inner Schindler”.
And if you have found your Inner-Schindler, do not relent – as well as you can, in plain sight or not, be a light on the path of others that they might not stumble or if they have that you are part of lifting them back up.