Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 8, 2003
Give what ever there is to give
Light One Candle
MSGR. JIM LISANTE
Not long ago, a friend showed me an essay by Anne Frank. While I knew about The Diary of Anne Frank, I was unaware of her other writings, which, in fact, include stories, and even the start of a novel.
Certainly, I don't think anyone who has read her Diary could forget her life story. How, shortly after Anne's 13th birthday, in 1942, she went into hiding from the Nazis along with her family and several friends. Because they were Jews, they knew it was their only hope of avoiding the death camps. With the help of a few trusted friends, the Frank family and the others survived in their hiding place for two years. Then, finally, the Nazis came, arrested them and sent them to the camps. Within months, Anne and most of the others had died.
While the eight people were cramped in that tiny apartment, they could move and speak very little, lest they be discovered. That's when Anne's natural talent for writing gave her an emotional and creative outlet. For a young girl eager for a life of value, happiness and accomplishment, being able to express herself on page after page was a gift, a godsend. And that's exactly what her words - simple, eloquent, engaging - have become for millions around the world in the decades since they first appeared in print.
Now I've read her essay Give and find it especially moving. Here's a quote:
"Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness. If we were to start by adding to that goodness instead of stifling it, by giving poor people the feeling that they too are human beings, we wouldn't necessarily have to give money or material things, since not everyone has them to give.
"Everything starts in small ways, so in this case you can begin in small ways too. . . . Set a good example, and it won't take long for others to follow.
"How wonderful it is that no one has to wait, but can start right now to gradually change the world! How wonderful it is that everyone, great and small, can immediately help bring about justice by giving of themselves! Give whatever there is to give! You can always - always -- give something, even if it's a simple act of kindness! If everyone were to give in this way and didn't scrimp on kindly words, there would be much more love and justice in the world!
"If you follow this advice, within a few generations, people will never have to feel sorry for poor little beggar children again, because there won't be any! The world has plenty of room, riches, money and beauty. God has created enough for each and every one of us. Let us begin by dividing it more fairly."
Anne Frank was wonderfully idealistic. Indeed, I suspect that the idea of kind words and deeds by "everyone, great and small" leading to justice and the end of poverty would strike some people as impractical. But think about the writer herself.
Here was a youngster, only 15 when she died, whose average, middle class life had been destroyed by evil. She and her loved ones - and millions of others - feared for their lives each day. And yet, Anne had hope, born of her youth in some measure, but also a faith that goodness would prevail. Her beliefs could not save her life, but they gave her a legacy beyond her imaginings.
So is Anne Frank's plea for compassion and generosity actually so unrealistic? If I were to believe that, I'd have to stop believing that "It's better to light one candle that to curse the darkness."
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: email@example.com.)
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