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Tag Archives: Elie Wiesel

Take Sides

Source: Take Sides

The link is to a quote by Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner. He is not referring to taking sides over a game. Instead, he speaks to taking sides when we witness wrong-doing and immoral acts. His book Night is a worthwhile reading.

I remind other Christians Jesus reached out to those who were most in need, living on the margins of society. He ate with sinners and tax collectors and stood up against the Pharisees and scribes (Luke 15:1–4) and (Romans 3:23).

We each have to decide what we is immoral and moral. It is not upholding abstract laws and rules, but the spirit of doing what is proper. I did not use the word right or correct . When I do, I fall into a trap of checking a binary box of right or wrong. Instead, I ask “is this proper?” In French, this is a matter of comportment and conduct.

I think the last sentence in the quote are important, worthwhile repeating. It is worth spending time whiling and linger over the words and the depth of their meaning, from a person who suffered and witnessed unthinkable human tragedy perpretrated by other people. “Whereever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”

I am not a big believer in thinking about my legacy, whatever that might be, but I want to be remembered as someone who stood up and spoke out against the wrong done to other people.

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On Wiesel’s Night

Several years before I retired from teaching, a family approached me and asked me to tutor their child. Usually, I don’t tutor. Too often, it is about prepping for a test and is too rote for me.

After talking with the family and student, I agreed. The student was behind in some courses and wanted to be ready to transition from home schooling to attending high school full-time.

I helped her mostly in Math and Language Arts. I approach Language Arts through a cross subject method. I choose a novel and prepare a novel study. The students demonstrate comprehension, writing, grammatical, and other skills, instead of drill and kill method.

We discussed several possible choices for a novel study and decided on Elie Wiesel‘s Night, which is an autobiographical narrative of his time as a teenager in Nazi concentration camps with his family. I warned the student it was a tough read, but she insisted on the book. I asked her to read only assigned chapters and keep a journal.

The next week, she asked a question and confessed she read the whole book in one sitting. She asked if was OK to cry when doing a novel study. I said it was. We adapted and went through the book in a different way.

What I learned from that experience, is as hard as we try, as parents and teachers, there are things we cannot prepare children for in advance. This poem by Thomas E. Thornton, who was a teacher, echoed those sentiments. The poem is hard to read, but he wanted to impress upon students an appreciation for the horrors and violence of war.

I cannot teach this book.  Instead,

I drop copies on their desks,

like bombs on sleeping towns,

and let them read.  So do I, again.

The stench rises from the page

and chokes my throat.

The ghosts of burning babies

haunt my eyes.

And that bouncing baton,

that pointer of Death,

stabs me in the heart

as it sends his mother

to the blackening sky.

Nothing is destroyed

the laws of science say,

only changed.

The millions transformed into

precious smoke ride the wind

to fill our lungs and hearts

with their cries.

No, I cannot teach this book.

I simply want the words

to burn their comfortable souls

and leave them scarred for life.

 

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