Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"It Was Necessary..."

Someone special to me died yesterday. It's a person I've never met, but have admired since I was an adolescent and first heard her name. She's a bit of an unsung hero... or at least not nearly loudly enough sung. Her name is Miep Gies, and she died yesterday at the age of 100 years. It's not a name everyone immediately recognizes. Her claim to fame comes from one of the people she helped. See, she was one of those who helped hide Anne Frank and her family during the Holocaust. 

"...I want everyone to know that I am a very common and cautious woman and definitely not a genius or dare-devil.I did help like so many others who ran the same or more risk than me.It was necessary so I helped."
~Miep Gies

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."
~Anne Frank

After the Franks were arrested and taken away by the Gestapo, Ms. Gies found Anne's diaries and hung on to them for the event of her return. As anyone who has matriculated knows (Raise your hand if you did not read The Diary of Anne Frank in school... and if you're raising your hand, shame on your school's curriculum. Go get a copy and read it now!), anyway... as I was saying, Anne never returned - she was one of the many who died at Bergen-Belsen. Ms. Gies finally turned the diaries over to Anne's father when he was released years later. She said that she never read the diaries and further, in fact, that had she read them, she would have destroyed them because they implicated all five adults (including herself) who helped hide the Frank family and others. Keeping the diaries was as risky as hiding the families. It's definitely a case of discretion being the better part of valor.

While it's rare that any of us would find ourselves in a similar situation, it's not so rare that we have the ability to help others. It shouldn't be an anomaly to be selfless. Both Miep Gies and Anne Frank shared a kindred spirit that revolved around believing the best in people and wanting the best for people. In an interview a year ago, Ms. Gies said her one regret was that she couldn't do more to secure freedom for the children and give them a place to run and play. Little did she know that at the time, Anne had been writing that it's a beautiful world if one only takes a proper look.

What can we do to improve existence for someone? And even as I ask the question (and believe me, I ask it of myself), what really follows is, what will we do? Because as Ms. Gies pointed out, "It is always better to try than to do nothing, because not trying secures complete failure."

"The final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands."
~Anne Frank

We could (and should) take a profound example and lesson from these two beautiful women. What will we do? Let's begin today.

For more information, this is a lovely website tributing Miep Gies' life: http://www.miepgies.nl/en/

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