“The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” Exodus 33:11
Recently, I watched a documentary on the Holocaust and this precious man was recounting a vivid story about the GI rescue of his concentration camp in the spring of 1945 when he was 15 years of age. He discussed the extreme and catastrophic living conditions of lacking food, shelter, and other abuses; he did so calmly, succinctly; probably he had spoken of it many times and it had become a story to him and less of an experience for it was long ago. He then shared about the American infantry coming through the gates of the camp and the smiles and cheers of the captives in striped prison garb; suddenly, at 15, the old man found himself free.
“But where did they go?” he asked rhetorically, in his native German tongue to the translator. Forward, out, to a nearby city for shelter and medical care, he said. He, along with his older brother (who had lost their parents and 6 other siblings), set out and found themselves on the road running into an American Tank Division with their men eating their daily rations of lunch on top of the iron “monsters”. The man remembered a young solder, maybe 20, who jumped down off of a tank and came right up to him and gave him his portion of rations for that day’s mid-day meal.
The man, who said no one had “seen” him for six years, was so overwhelmed that as an old one now, tears fell into his eyes and dropped onto his cheeks as his voice clung to the experience as if it had just happened moments ago. He said, the compassion was so tantamount to him that he dropped to his knees and kissed the soldier’s boots. He laughed at the memory and then said, his eyes gleaming, “I really did.” The soldier reached down and gently encouraged him to stand, clasped his face and said, “It will be okay. It will all be okay. You’re free now.”
The power of such a moment–the man, being “seen”; the soldier, giving something out; both taking something in; the soldier bearing the burden of the six years for just a moment of time, seconds but enough. Enough, the man instructed us viewers, that the boy then who is the man now, could forgive, forgive anything even the Nazi cruelty. Such a kindness, so temporary, yet all eternal, wiped out the unquenchable hurt of what we can simply not imagine–holocaust pain extinguished from the food of compassion.
“Eat”, the soldier said. “Eat . . .”
Live, God says. Live. I’ve got you. All is well. It will be more than okay. I see you, He says, staring into your eyes. He picks you up; He gives you food; He says, Eat.
Dianne H. Timmering, MBA, MFA, CNA Vice President of Spirituality Signature Consulting Services, LLC