My Mom is really, really into history. We used to tease her about her “phases” of interest – whatever time period she was interested in, it was all she would talk about. It was all she would read about. It was all that surrounded us. All the time. One month it was the Civil War – then World War Two – another month the Great Depression.
I remember when my Mom researched World War Two and the Holocaust, and, consequently taught us about this horrific time in history. I remember as a young child being absolutely appalled. How could this have happened? How could anyone be so evil? Why did it take so long to end the reigning terror of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party? It was difficult for my innocent child’s mind to comprehend that any human would treat a fellow human in this way. I truly couldn’t understand this evil.
Yet, now, as an adult, I can look around me and see how so much evil may have gradually manifested itself. Of course the mere thought of what happened is still gut-wrenching – so sickening – so wrong. But I can see that evil finds its way into humans, wrapping its long and dreadful fingers around their hearts and resulting in reprehensible and inhumane deeds.
I can see it in the racial slur that so easily slides from someone’s lips. I see it in the stereotype-laden comment – so commonplace that no one seems to notice. I can see the evil as backs are turned, faces look aways, and ears are closed to the needs of others deemed “lesser” in some way. I see it as we laugh at a “harmless” joke at another’s expense. I see it in selfish actions, thoughtless remarks and a passive response to wrong. I see, all around me, how little things can turn into bigger things. Do you see it too?
Recently, on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), I listened to the story of a survivor. He detailed his experience and shared the horrors of what he had endured. I cried as I listened, sad and angry that this had happened. At the end of his story, the survivor said that he wanted to leave the audience with one final thought. He told us to always, always look out for others. He said to treat others better even than we would treat ourselves. His survival, he reminded us, was due to someone looking out for him.
So, who are you looking out for? Am I treating others better than I treat myself? Are we looking out for our fellow humans or are we getting lost in comparisons, name calling, and jokes? Do we realize that hurting people are real – evil is prevalent – and standing up against wrong is oh-so needed? I know that too many times I have been guilty of letting a joke or comment slide – guilty of not standing up against wrong. I know that I have not always treated others better than my own self.
Friends, it’s time. It is time to not only do good but to also stand against evil. It is time to look out for others – those like us in some ways and those unlike us in other ways. It is time to take a long, hard look at the way we think and the things we say – it’s time to make changes wherever necessary. Find someone that you can look out for. And then find another someone. Encourage others to join you in the fight against wrong-doings. Turn your face to those who are hurting. Turn your face, and your eyes, and your hands. Lift up a fellow human and work to stem the tide of evil by saying no to unkind words, educating against the racial slur and stereotype-laden remarks, and lending a helping hand whenever needed and as often as needed.
Truly, each of us can make a difference.