Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. Beyond the horizon is rest beckoning me. Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.
“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger………
The fiercely defiant woman holding her travel bag refuses to release the arm of a small child, her 6 year-old son. Guards surrounding her now, she screams profanities at the men who are attempting to take the child from her. They understand her Spanish words and react more harshly to accomplish the mission of the border agents. Since three days before, when a new government directive ordered that children crossing the border with their families be separated from parents and confined for further relocation, detention centers were created from abandoned retail centers to house the detainees. Within those buildings fenced cages housed the children. Their only offense was escaping with their parents from hostile and dangerous conditions wrought by political and social turmoil in their native homeland. They sought to start anew in a land they perceived as a place of opportunity and freedom.
………or needing clothes or sick in prison…….
Since going into hiding on 6 July 1942 with her parents and sister in concealed rooms behind a book case, the young girl remembers a previous life of respectability and shared community in the Netherlands. A gifted writer, she passes her time keeping a diary. They are joined later by the van Pels family and Mr. Pfeffer, a dentist. The eight of them share the cramped quarters for two years.
Then on 4 August 1944, “Shhhhh, they are here, don’t move,” whispers their father. The noises and sounds of footsteps grow closer and the Gestapo storms the door which has concealed their whereabouts, their hiding place.
On 3 September 1944, Anne, her sister Margot and their parents Otto and Edith were boarded on a cattle train to their final destination at Auschwitz where the Nazi government’s solution to the disposition of unwanted elements in Aryan society was carried out. The men were separated from the women by the SS. Those deemed able to work were admitted to the camp; those deemed unfit including children under 15 years of age were sent directly to the gas chambers. Of the 1019 passengers on that train, 549 were immediately dispatched to death. Mother Edith died later of starvation, Anne and Margot died of typhus. Father Otto survived the death camp. He returned to Amsterdam where, having received his daughter’s diary and notes from a friend, he realized the significance of Anne’s writings and proceeded to publish them.
……and did not help you?”
His half-frozen body hangs from the fence crossing the barrenness of the cold October prairie. Small in stature, boyish in appearance, he has been brutally beaten and left to die by his abductors. It is many hours after the assault before he is discovered and rushed to a nearby hospital, where he will die six days later from severe head injuries. A bright young man, fellow students remember him as a friendly face in the college classroom where he has attended classes.
Stories detailed the events leading up to his death. Some wanted to believe it was a drug deal gone bad, others said it was a hate crime directed at his sexual orientation. In the end analysis, it truly did not matter to his mother and loved ones what reasons were responsible. The boy was brutalized and left hanging on a fence in Wyoming to die.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for the least of these…..
The man standing on the corner holding his tattered cardboard sign looks longingly at motorists passing by hoping that someone will roll down the car window and pass enough money to him to feed his growling stomach. Nobody stops. They don’t seem to notice. He reflects on the times he also was that motorist who ignored beggars standing on the corner with their cardboard signs. The times back then were better. He had a job and a family who depended on him, loved him. But, addiction stole all of that, made him an unbathed, ragged homeless man who now lives in the nearby woods with others like him. Different stories to tell, but all of them now hungry and destitute.
…..you did not do for me.” Matthew 25:44
I open my eyes in a sweat-soaked bed, my pulse racing. I recognize the man with the sign on the corner in my dream. It is me. I recognize the motorists passing by ignoring the man’s needs. They also are me.
I am the one who stands along the rail tracks leading to Auschwitz wondering where the human cargo is heading, knowing where they are going, too frightened to be involved.
I am the border guard seizing the child from his mother. My conscience tells me this is not right, but I have a family to support, I need the job.
I am the one who watches the frail boy being bullied after gym class. They are calling him a sissy, a wimp. I watch as the bigger boys punch and poke him. They make fun of him because he is different. I turn and go to my next class not wanting to be the next target for their taunts and abuse.
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”