Well, it has been about 4 weeks since I returned home from Poland, and it’s been an interesting time of trying to get back to normal life. Corey made the comment last night that I am just now seeming more like myself. A friend put it well when she said that I might never really “get over” feeling different, but I will experience these feelings differently over time with gradual change. Some days, I feel like I will never really see the world the same again.
I had the privilege of accompanying a group from my congregation to the CANDLES museum last week where they heard Eva’s story for themselves and learned about the museum. It felt great to be at the museum and to see Eva again. After being there with her at Auschwitz, her story took on an even deeper meaning than the previous times I had heard it, and it was great for members of my congregation to hear it from her and be inspired for themselves.
Since my time at Auschwitz, I feel like I look at the world in a different light. I have a hard time understanding (even more than before!) the violence, the intolerance, the prejudice, and the anger in the world. I find myself asking even more than before, “Why are people so angry???” “Why are people so inconsiderate?” “Why are people so violent?” And, what in the world can we do about it? There are times when I find myself in the midst of hopelessness for the world, for the church…I see a lot of stories in the news and on social media that speak of nothing but harm and despair from humanity, and the harm that the church is doing to people who claim to be doing this in the name of Jesus. I struggle to understand. There are days that I have my doubts about the future, about my own calling, and even about the presence of God. That’s real talk.
But I continue to find hope in people like Eva who are not afraid to tell their story, who continue to find hope in the midst of despair, and in people of this world who love and do wonderful things every day. For every act of violence, there are hopefully even more acts of love. We just don’t hear about them as much. I continue to have hope in the story of Jesus, the ultimate act of love, forgiveness, sacrifice, and the overcoming of hopelessness, despair, and even death itself.
As for me, I find myself being a little more humble these days, but at the same time, wanting to speak up even more for people who do not have a voice. I want to teach people about the Holocaust and the events leading up to it, and about Eva and her story of survival and ultimately forgiveness. I want to pass along her lessons of self-empowerment, never giving up on your dreams, and finding that we are stronger than we think we are in any situation. I want to pass along my experiences at Auschwitz to anyone who would like to listen, and hope that one day they might find themselves forever changed in some way as we hope and work for a better world where there are no more Auschwitzes.