Today (September 1st) is the anniversary of the start of World War II. This article is dedicated to Dr. Edith Eger, a Holocaust survivor whose remarkable life story—poignantly told in her memoir The Choice—is a testament of the power to choose light and hope, even in the depths of unfathomable darkness.
These days, it’s easy for me to slip into a state of complaint and self-pity.
As I sit here, I gaze out at a smokey haze from wildfires raging nearby. I can’t see friends and extended family due to a pandemic. I often scramble between work and solo parenting due to school closures. I read headlines of dark political rhetoric and feel my chest tighten at images of racial and economic injustice.
Then, suddenly, I think back to a pile of shoes I saw years ago in Auschwitz—the last mundane remnants of people who took their final breaths on Earth in a gas chamber just moments later.
A question arises from the depths of my being: Would any one of those victims exchange their life for mine today?
It immediately reminds me of the mystery of our existence. Those people didn’t choose their year of birth, place of birth or life circumstances—and neither did I.
Yet, in no part due to my own actions, I have found myself alive, living in the year 2020 with my own life circumstances, blessings, and challenges.
My takeaway isn’t one of minimizing my suffering (who am I to complain?), nor one of giving a harsh directive to my inner self (why don’t I “man up” already and stuff down my feelings?).
Instead, my takeaway is to live a life of consequence now—a life of purpose, meaning, fearlessness and self-defined value for all of those who died. To let myself be happy for all those who were robbed of the opportunity.
After all, my Nikes aren’t in that pile at Auschwitz; they are resting outside my door. They’re a bit ashen from the fires and resting alongside a mask to protect against the pandemic, but I’m still able to lace them up, walk outside in freedom and live a life of my choosing.