These immortal words of Mary Baker Eddy rang through to my thought yesterday as I heard a powerful story recounted by Ulrike Prinz, CS, of Hamburg, Germany, in her lecture entitled "A Christian Science Response to Hate and Violence."
I was very moved by what I heard, and I am grateful to have found the source of the story on the internet. At the bottom of this post, you will find hyperlinks to the original book and biographical info on the co-authors.
"Now I needed my new insight indeed. When the ugliness became too great to handle I did what I had learned to do. I went from one end to the other of that barbed wire enclosure looking into men's faces until I saw looking back at me the face of Christ.
"And that's how I came to know Wild Bill Cody. That wasn't his real name. His real name was seven unpronounceable syllables in Polish, but he had long drooping handlebar mustaches like pictures of the old western hero, so the American soldiers called him Wild Bill. He was one of the inmates of the concentration camp, but obviously he hadn't been there long: his posture was erect, his eyes bright, his energy indefatigable. Since he was fluent in English, French, German and Russian, as well as Polish, he became a kind of unofficial camp translator.
"We have time for this old fellow," he'd say."He's been waiting to see us all day." His compassion for his fellow-prisoners glowed on his face, and it was to this glow that I came when my own spirits were low.
"So I was astonished to learn when Wild Bill's own papers came before us one day, that he had been in Wuppertal since 1939! For six years he had lived on the same starvation diet, slept in the same airless and disease-ridden barracks as everyone else, but without the least physical or mental deterioration.
"Perhaps even more amazing, every group in the camp looked to him as a friend. He was the one to whom quarrels between inmates were brought for arbitration. Only after I'd been at Wuppertal a number of weeks did I realize what a rarity this was in a compound where the different nationalities of prisoners hated each other almost as much as they did the Germans.
"It's not easy for some of them to forgive," I commented to him one day as we sat over mugs of tea in the proceeding center. "So many of them have lost members of their families."
"Wild Bill leaned back on the upright chair and sipped at his drink. "We lived in the Jewish section of Warsaw," he began slowly, the first words I had heard him speak about himself.
'My wife, our two daughters, and our three little boys. When the Germans reached our street they lined everyone against a wall and opened up with machine guns. I begged to be allowed to die with my family, but because I spoke German they put me in a work group."
"He paused, perhaps seeing again his wife and children. 'I had to decide right then,' he continued, 'whether to let myself hate the soldiers who had done this. It was an easy decision, really. I was a lawyer. In my practice I had seen too often what hate could do to people's minds and bodies. Hate had just killed the six people who mattered most to me in the world. I decided then that I would spend the rest of my life, whether it was a few days or many years, loving every person I came in contact with.'"
(An excerpt from the book "Return from Tomorrow" by George G. Ritchie with Elizabeth Sherrill, published by Fleming H. Revell, A division of Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI., pgs. 113-116)
Thank you, Ulrike Prinz, for bringing this story out for your audience in Paris.
Your shares reach and bless many, many others.
If you aren't yet a subscriber, a full-text version of the blog can be delivered to your email inbox.
It's easy to sign up in the sidebar.
You may also wish to:
VISIT MY WEBSITE HOME PAGE
READ MORE BLOG POSTS
FIND A LIST OF MY OTHER PUBLISHED CONTENT