I’m fortunate to have grandchildren who live close by. Their youthful wisdom continuously refreshes my thinking and changes me for the better. As we age and see the dark side of humanity, it’s easy to forget the light. Spending time with young people reminds us of the innate wisdom and goodness in us all.
Here’s just one example. We all wish to be honorable, but doing the right thing is often hard, sometimes dangerous, and frequently unpopular. My granddaughter reads historic novels and recommends her favorites to me. As we read, history comes to life and we measure ourselves against the protagonists of books we love. We ask, "Would I have done that? What choices would I make in those circumstances?" Stories of bravery test and develop our own personal ethics.
The book, Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry takes place during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. The King has burned the ships in his navy and surrendered to the Germans. His intentions are explained:
He set fire to the ships so the Nazi forces couldn’t use them.
He yielded without fighting so no Danish citizen would die in a futile battle where they were outnumbered and overpowered.
These are wise strategies. The citizens of Denmark followed the King’s lead. They appeared to comply with the hateful German soldiers while they built a strong underground resistance to thwart their intentions.
The story is written so we become members of a Danish family who risk their own safety to help their Jewish neighbors escape to safety. We see the difference between cruelty and courage, thoughtless bullies and thoughtful heroism.
It reminds us that although risky, defending the rights of those wrongly under assault is the test of our integrity. As we read, we relive the challenges and learning of the main characters:
A small group in a small place can make a huge difference.
Prejudice-free people see the humanity in everyone.
Loyalty and friendship are life-long bonds.
We learn at an early age that life is not always fair. As kids and then as adults we’re alert to injustice and prejudice. Sometimes it happens to us. Sometimes it happens to others. We’re often called to decide what is our business and what is not; what we can accept and what is intolerable; where it’s safe to speak up and where we remain silent; when surrender is the best strategy and when action is the only option.
Throughout our lives we refine the values and the decision-making skills we learn in our youth. Today's young people show us through their words and actions that kindness, bravery, and human decency are thriving.
What a gift!
Source: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry