Thursday, March 10, 2011

Think Danish!

I just finished reading an article about Denmark during World War II and am still deeply moved by this bit of history. Despite the fact that Denmark, like most other European countries, was conquered by Nazi Germany, the hearts and minds of the Danish leaders and ordinary people were not vanquished.  They were united in their opposition to evil and in their commitment for the common good and the salvation of their nation's 8,000 Jews. Ordinary citizens offered shelter and protection, often to Jewish people they hadn't known before. Leaders organized an escape to neutral Sweden for the vast majority of Denmark's Jewish population. Fewer than 500 were caught by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp.  The Danish government sent food and vitamins to those in the camp and eventually arranged for their release and safe transport to Sweden. And when the war was over, the Jewish population returned to Denmark to discover their homes, bank accounts, jobs, businesses and lives intact and waiting for them.  In war-ravaged Europe, their fate was rare and wonderful -- thanks to the courage, kindness and plain decency of the Danish people and their leaders.

As I read the papers and listen to the news these days, filled with red state, blue state, tea party, religious and ethnic divisiveness,  I think we could all use a bit of Danish spirit.

We need to ask ourselves how we can find ways to work together to make our society more equitable, healthy and safe for all.

We need to remember how many people -- some we know, some we'll never know -- helped us to gain whatever security we may have.

We need to look for ways to help others in small ways on a daily basis.

We need to stop judging and try to understand a differing point of view.
We may never agree, but we need to extend the courtesy of listening to one another.

We need to be more caring. We need to be kind.

We need to seek real solutions that will address the common good.

We need to come together with love and compassion.

We need to remember that ordinary Danes made a major difference and kept hope alive when all seemed lost.

Is it possible that we have, deep down, the courage and compassion to be at least a little bit Danish?

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