If you’ve ever had the change to sit with survivors of the holocaust you’d likely be told stories of pain, of suffering and of chaos. But, if you sit long enough you’d more likely hear stories of beauty and of the those who not only lived, but prospered. You’d hear of the indomitable human spirit embracing love while hate seemed to permeate every aspect of their lives.
In every story of death, you’d be told a story of life finding a way to prosper. Where darkness reigned you would be told of beauty.
I believe that we are finding ourselves in a time so eerily reminiscent of the world that brought my family to the United States. The pogroms and eventual holocaust spread the Jewish people all over the planet. When the virus of hate sought to destroy life people embraced their humanities and changed the world. There are stories so tragic and so beautiful that could only come in the light of that darkness.
When you hear stories of awe inspiring triumph and celebration it can seem out of place. As the girl in the red coat in scenes of black and white during Schindlers list stood out, so too do the stories of celebration in a world of chaos. I asked once why they still had a wedding, a secret celebration or told a joke.
Their answer always, “Because we must”.
Both people and disease can take freedom, peace, and even life. But what can not be taken is the ability to love through it. To be human is to love. To love is to be human. And in the truth of a world in chaos you likely can’t change the world. But what you can do is choose to be peace in even one persons life.
These moments are what remind us that we are alive. These seemingly innocuous or even momentous events seem frivolous when chaos reigns. But I would contend that they are needed now more than ever. That now is when we must choose love. Now is when we must share stories of triumph and of beauty. Now is when we must find a way to laugh in spite of and at our circumstances. We do it, because we must.
So in light of tragedy I want to share a story of love. I have a friend named Logan. He is a teacher who has already lived through a life burdened for his short years (sorry Logan, I’m pulling the old lady card on you). His story is one of trial and strength. That part is his to share. But what I have been given allowance to share is his story of love. He’s a great guy who has a kind heart and recently he’s made the decision to share his life with his partner. They have become engaged and I couldn’t be happier. Because right now what I need to share is the joy of life growing. Of two people finding themselves in the chaos of this world. Their engagement and marriage are the future. It’s not going to be a virus or humanity turning on itself. This future belongs to the beauty of their love and I am beyond excited for it.
I too want to share why I am still making jokes about the corona virus. I don’t laugh because I think it’s funny. I am not mocking it because I am ignoring the suffering and lives lost. I am laughing, as I believe we must. We can not ignore a world that is crumbling, but we can find a way to embrace joy and laugh in the face of sadness. Silly memes and humorous words are something we can share when we need to remember that there is still joy.
In fact, one of my brothers recently died of cancer. Our last conversation lasted maybe one minute. I knew he was going to pass any day. We didn’t talk of the cancer or death. We didn’t share words of great inspiration.
When he was given the phone I told him I had heard he was being a pain in the ass and was about to upset everyones schedule. He laughed and said, “well you know how I am.” This wasn’t about ignoring what we knew was about to happen, but it was embracing why there would be sadness. His death was sad because we had shared joy. His life one light extinguished in a dark world that needed it. So we chose to laugh because we must.
Lastly I will share the thing I will remember most from him. It was laughing about the holocaust. Or rather, sharing what we believed the Jewish people did during it. As my brother said, “At least once I believe that as the gas started coming from the chamber one guy looked to his friend and said, “did you hear the one about the guy…””
We laugh because we must. We celebrate because we must. For in that we give ourselves a future.