The life of care and kindness often has the life of a seed. It might be planted by someone we never know or someone we learn of long after the kindness has been received. This is a story about such a kindness.
When a friend’s brother-in-law passed away, her sister had a call while preparing for the funeral. It was a Jewish woman living 300 miles away who asked if she could attend the funeral. Her sister was taken aback, not by the request, but by the surprise of how far her husband’s life had reached. She said, “Of course you can come, but please, tell me, how did you know Sam?”
The Jewish woman spoke with a tremble through a thick German-Yiddish accent. “I read in his obituary that he was one of the first three soldiers to liberate Dachau at the end of the war.” There was a pause, “I was a little girl then, weighing only 28 pounds, naked and limping. I was shot in the foot for taking some water.”
There was another pause. “When those three soldiers entered the camp, we were stunned. And seeing us children, naked and starving, they took off their shirts and covered us.”
They both fell into a deep silence. The Jewish woman continued. “I always wanted to thank them, but never knew who they were.” And so the little girl from Dachau drove 300 miles to stand at the dead soldier’s grave and embraced his widow.
How are we to understand a story like this? Does it tell us that acts of kindness and the gratitude they engender outlast decades and oceans and continents? Does it tell us that kindness, like the song of a red bird, will be answered long after the bird has died? Does it tell us that the smallest effort to restore dignity can save a soul from degradation? Yes. Yes. Yes. Like the one bead of light, after weeks of light, that causes a flower to finally open, the bead of kindness that is compelled from us, against all reservation, will open more things than we may ever know.
A Question to Walk With: Tell the story of a kindness you learned of long after it was given.
~Mark Nepo – Huffington Post, 11/28/2012