When Livia Bitton-Jackson came on the stage last Tuesday night, all of us in the audience stood, without prompting, and applauded. She was embarrassed, though gracious. Told us that she didn't deserve this honor. The real honor goes to those who did not survive, the ones she represented by telling her own story.
Her only request was that we go forth and tell her story. She would be pleased to know that I have already done so several times this week--both in person and in writing.
I noted how many times I've asked people, as an author, to do exactly that with my own story. It's certainly not a holocaust story. Yet it is a story that is filled with some unique lessons about how people collude with evil in order to heap flaming coals on the head of one who is speaking truth about a problem that needs a lot of attention.
What I sense is fear. I suppose it would be like Livia asking the German people to talk about her story at their family gatherings, to make it a part of their aubiographical dialogue.
When people who are close to the church and have the need to "protect" the institution and it's "sacred" beliefs about itself and what it believes about God, there seems to be a huge disconnect, a refusal to "own" the story about complicity and collusion.
Why should I be surprised? Like everyone and every culture, I am as prone as anyone to hide and ignore my own shadow side. Yet hope is found only when we face our shadows and are transformed.
That's a very big job--one that all of us will do well to embrace as we learn to tell the stories of others for the greater good.