Sufficient proof

The inscription at the base of this statue at Dachau reads: "To honor the dead, to warn the living." Dachau Concentration Camp, near Munich, Germany, August 2005

The inscription at the base of this statue at Dachau reads:
“To honor the dead, to warn the living.”
Dachau Concentration Camp, near Munich, Germany, August 2005

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances…”Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl spent three years of his life in various concentration camps, including Dachau. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like in a Nazi death camp, but it does seem that witnessing what Frankl describes would have been stunning. We all long to believe that we could be heroic if called upon to be so; that we would be one of the few who would have been giving what little comfort we could to our fellow prisoners.

Fortunately, those of us reading this blog likely will never face circumstances as catastrophic as those the Holocaust victims endured. What might escape our notice is that we can be heroic in far more mundane circumstances. The same impulse that would lead a starving person to sacrifice his last bit of food is manifest in countless unremarkable ways, every day.

When someone gives you a few minutes of precious time by attending to your story, sending you a note or small gift, cooking a meal for you, helping with a small task, or any other of a number of personal kindnesses, they are enacting the same spirit Frankl witnessed in the camps. When someone lets you into traffic instead of honking at you, waves you ahead in a line at the grocery, or gives you a smile or a friendly word just when you need it most, they are exercising the freedom to choose a caring attitude.

This, Frankl reminds us, is a freedom that can never be taken away. It belongs to all of us, today, this very moment. How will we use it?

20 Comments

  1. LB

    Such a powerful and thought provoking post, Julia. Thank you for continuing to share your wisdom and thoughts, especially when times are so tough for you.
    I’ll be checking in later to see the results of Jeff’s tests.
    Sending strength and love.
    Laurie

    • Hi Laurie, I have so appreciated your presence here during the past few weeks. Can’t wait to see you soon!

  2. Sheila

    Good Monday morning, Julia. ☕️ We do have the choice to give unto others so many times every day! Our daughter prefers to never mention the good deeds that she often does for others! I think that really takes a caring attitude to the next level. I opened the windows in our sunroom this morning so Walter could enjoy all the early morning sounds of the “back yard bird congregation”! 🐥🌅 Thank you for the time you take from your busy schedule to give us this wonderful blog! It means so very much! 🙏 💛

    • Hello Sheila, I am so grateful to have you with us through everything. I smiled at the thought of Walter and the back yard bird congregation! At our York home, the birds sometimes gather in huge numbers in the back yard (almost like a Hitchcock film) and make quite the racket — one could not actually call it song, but it’s amusing. I always refer to it as their convention. Most of the time they do sound more like a chorus, thank goodness. I look forward to enjoying them with you at Club Verandah during what remains of the milder weather. Thanks for your kind encouragement about the blog. It’s truly a labor of love for me. ❤

  3. A powerful post. I agree with you, we or at least I could never imagine what the people in the concentration camps had to endure. I hope no one ever forgets what happened to them because if they do there is a possibility that it can happen again.

    • Patricia, I agree. One of the most impressive things about the Holocaust museum in DC is that it takes the visitor through the entire history of how such an atrocity came to be, tracing the gradual rise of anti-Semitism that came long before the camps were a reality. In the divisive rhetoric on both sides of the current political spectrum, too often I see the same latent violence, hatred and resentment between various groups that can lead to such unthinkable cruelty. I hope we can learn from history and somehow avoid allowing it to repeat itself.

  4. Carolyn

    Good morning Julia, sending you a hug and wish we could have a cup of tea together. The weather is just right for setting on the pouch. I don’t have much time , just wanted to say hi and hope you all are doing okay. Hugs and love to all.

    • Hi Carolyn, I’m imagining you here sharing tea with me as I write this. Thanks for being with us on this journey. We love you.

  5. Defeat Despair, along with Guido Orefice by watching again the 1997 Italian film, “Life is Beautiful”, directed by Roberto Benigni.

    • Always and forever one of my top 5 favorite films. Guido understood what it means to Defeat Despair!

  6. Beautiful, Julia. xo

    • Thanks Alys!

  7. Lydia

    Powerful words. Thanks so much.

    • You’re welcome, thanks for reading!

  8. Amy

    I love when someone does something unexpected it lifts my heart for days. I hope I pass that on to others. You have sent me countless little things and said so many kind words to me over the years. I thank God for you in every remembrance. (Phil 1:3) Love you. A

    • Hello Amy, when it comes to little (and big) kindnesses between us over the years, you have surpassed me by at least 5 to 1 — you are one of the most generous people I know and I cherish your friendship. Not to mention, I cannot imagine how we would not have survived these past few years without you. ❤ ❤ ❤

  9. Ann

    Wow! Thank you for another inspiring and uplifting blog. Plenty to think about and put in action.

    • You’re welcome, Ann. I’m so glad you liked it. Thanks for reading.

  10. MaryAnn

    Julia, What a perfect way to express how vastly important are “the little things”! My nieces Edie Ann & Stephanie often post kindness articles on Facebook. I love smiling at someone & see their face light up!
    I pray for your family, your peace & the strength that only comes from God.
    My love to all of you!

    • Thank you, Mary Ann. We love you!

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