I just finished reading a book called ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife‘. I picked it up on a whim the other day at work when my laptop wasn’t working. Since I work with a web-based program, whenever my computer stops working my day comes to a sudden, and unwelcome, stop. I work next to a Target, which has been a blessing on more than one occasion. So, in search of something to keep myself busy while the IT specialist was fixing my laptop, I grabbed this book. I don’t like easy-t0-read, doesn’t-challenge-my-mind books. Why read a book that won’t make me think or engage my thoughts?
‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ is a sort of documentary of the family who ran the Warsaw Zoo before and during World War II. As many of you remember from history class, Hitler views Poland as an essential part of his expansion strategy for Germans, also known as lebensraum. In the beginning of the war, Poland was invaded by infantry and by air assault. Although much of the Warsaw Zoo was destroyed, the family used their own home, the exotic habitats they had built for the animals, and underground tunnels between cages to hide escaping Jews. A large and complex resistance movement sprung up in Poland to sabotage Nazis in any way possible and to provide Aryan documents to Jews. As I read this book, I was continuously reminded of how people can overcome differences in order to serve a higher cause. There are hundreds of stories from this era of people risking their lives to help others for no reason other than ‘it was the right thing to do’. This makes my heart smile. That may surprise some of you. How can my heart smile when I read about needless violence, deaths in the thousands, and unprecedented persecution? What my heart smiles at is the surprising unity that emerges IN SPITE of all the horrors. Even though the Nazis tried to dehumanize the Jews, others in Europe would not allow that to happen. Strangers helping strangers…that makes my heart smile.
The same can be see in the United States after 9/11. We all remember how our country seemed to become a more cohesive and unified being. Instead of being from Montana or Texas, we were all just Americans. We were all affected by the events of that day and we clung to our greatest common denominator: our nationality.
We even saw this after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. People from across the country put their lives on hold to help rebuild that city after such destruction. In fact, Tide has commercials on their Loads of Hope program which provides a free laundry service for those affected by disaster…yes, even Katrina. People were even happy that the New Orleans Saints won the 2010 Super Bowl because they wanted New Orleans, the underdog, to have something to celebrate.
And now, with Haiti a similar reaction has occurred. On Conan O’Brien’s last week as host of The Tonight Show, he admitted the week had been difficult and draining on all parties involved. What impressed me, though, was how he always said that show business can be silly and there are real problems in the world. Every show he discussed the earthquake in Haiti and offered a way viewers could make a donation. Even during the Super Bowl, there were reminders on how we can still help Haiti.
I love seeing how people come together and offer their sweat, muscles, empathy, money, and time to those in great need. I wonder though, if in our instant gratification world, our attention span doesn’t allow for long-term solutions. I think many of us prefer a blitzkrieg approach to disaster: I’ll listen to this for a certain amount of time and maybe give some money, but then let’s move on to something new. I know out here, people are more focused on Snowmageddon 2010 instead of Haiti, Katrina, the Tsunami of 2004., and 9/11. The residue of these disasters still lingers. Many have mentally moved on for whatever reason.
Where is the long-term commitment? Where is the concern that brought us all together? Hundreds of thousands of people have had their whole life changed and here I sit, drinking my coffee, annoyed that my life is on temporary hold due to snow. Where is my perspective? How am I helping the unity that grows from disaster? Today, let’s remember how resilient we can be. Let us remember how faithful God is and how He brings good in all things. And, let us thank Him for making us with the ability to forget ourselves to help others.