Simple Quote Sunday

“True humor is fun—it does not put down, kid, or mock. It makes people feel wonderful, not separate, different, and cut off. True humor has beneath it the understanding that we are all in this together.” -Hugh Prather

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Remembering Those Lost In The Holocaust

Seeing as yesterday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 71st anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz, it is only fitting that we take some time to remember those whose lives were so tragically taken away, all too soon. I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to listen to Michael Marder, a Holocaust survivor, share his personal story yesterday afternoon. This incredible man was able to survive nine different concentration camps, but unfortunately, no one in his immediate family had such luck.

Hearing Michael Marder tell his story reminded me of just how important it is to continue to share such stories so that we never forget about the atrocities that took place not too long ago. And with that, I’d like to introduce you to part of the Gottheim family. The woman in the photo is my great aunt (my grandmother’s mother’s sister), and pictured alongside her is her husband and three children. Unfortunately, they were never given the opportunity to tell their names, so all I have is a last name to go off of.

The Gottheims lived in Poland, but upon hearing of a potential German invasion, they made the necessary plans to make the trip to America by boat. When they arrived to the docks, each member of the family was inspected to make sure that they were in good enough condition to travel. However, as it turns out, one of the children had an ear infection and wasn’t allowed to board the ship. The father told the mother to take the other two children to America, and he would follow shortly after, once the child recuperated. The mother refused, and instead suggested that the father take the other two children to America, and she would follow shortly after, once the child recuperated. The father also refused, and the general consensus was to wait it out together, and make the trip as a family, once the child got better.

Unfortunately for the Gottheims, the German invasion came sooner than they had expected, and the family was murdered in their home before they were able to escape to America.

11 million people were killed during the Holocaust, 1.1 million of whom were children. 6 million of these individuals were Jewish, and others who were targeted and murdered include persons with disabilities, people from the LGBTQ community, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma, Slavs, political opponents, and plenty others. So many of these people died without their stories being told, which means to us, they will sadly forever be nameless and faceless. Like the Gottheims, millions of lives were cut short, and who knows what kind of greatness these people could have gone on to achieve?

One would think that we have since learned from the Holocaust, but it was not the first act of genocide to take place in the world, and unfortunately, it was not the last. If we do not remember the atrocities that were carried out just a few decades ago, we will be bound to have history repeat itself. We must never forget the Holocaust, and we must always speak up whenever we see any one person or any group of people being targeted by others. We owe this to the Gottheims, to all of the people who perished during the Holocaust, and to the survivors like Michael Marder who have dedicated their lives to spreading the word about the inhumane treatment they endured.

Martin Neimöller, a well-known pastor once exclaimed:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Christmas is a beautiful holiday celebrated by a countless number of individuals across the globe. Of course it is a significant holiday due to religious purposes, but what makes this day even more special is that it is one of the few times during the year where families come together to celebrate with one another. Not only this, but the holiday spirit brings people even closer together, and there is an overall joyous feeling that engulfs us all—regardless of our religious affiliations.

However, once the New Year rolls in and we quickly return to our routines, the festivity disappears, as does much of the joy we shared with one another just a few weeks/months prior. As the holidays pass, we pick up from where we last left off by consuming ourselves in political correctness and a continuous argument regarding which religion is superior and why the beliefs of others don’t matter. Before you know it, the closeness and connectedness that brought us all together is long gone—at least until the following December.

If we each took the time to realize that when you put aside our exteriors including our physical features, skin tones, and other such minute differences, we are all the same. Much of our beliefs and values are so similar, but for some reason we cannot take the time to listen to those around us and try to understand that there are a great deal of resemblances in our beliefs. If only we could live in a  world where “holiday cheer” was simply called “cheer,” and we allowed the joyous breeze that is seemingly only found during the holidays to run through the air all year long. Then the constant bickering, discrimination, and hatred that we see all over the news would lessen significantly, and maybe, just maybe, we could have a much easier time living in harmony.

As I posted a short while ago, Mother Teresa once said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” If we could each make it a goal to try and spread some of the “Holiday Cheer” throughout the following year, we might be able to help make this difference which would ultimately allow us to live in a better world.

While spending this beautiful holiday with loved ones, let us enjoy the special time we are sharing with each other. Let us also think about how to make improvements to the upcoming year we have ahead of us, so that we can continue to have as many memorable moments as possible. With that being said, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and may this year be filled with an abundance of joy, cheer, and love for one another!

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Snapshot Challenge Saturday

In the face of numerous tragedies such as those that recently occurred in France, Lebanon, and Egypt, it is difficult to post a weekly picture that shows something beautiful when so many are suffering. However, as unfortunate as this may be, it is in times of need and in times of despair in which people from all over the world come together as one. There is nothing more beautiful than uniting as one, as this is what must be done if we are to begin looking towards the future. Seeing so many people come together to support those affected in recent days is truly incredible, but there is still much work to be done.

We must find a way to allow unity to prevail—not just in times of need, but each and every day. This is most definitely a step in the right direction though, as the sight of the world uniting for those in need is truly incredible. As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” This snapshot challenge is dedicated to those who were killed in the aforementioned attacks as well as loved ones affected by the devastation. It is also dedicated to a strong sense of hope that together, we can ensure a safe and bright future for all.

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Day 2 In Cartagena, Colombia: Canoeing In La Boquilla

Upon waking up in the morning, we began our day by heading out to La Boquilla, a fisherman village in Cartagena where individuals from class zero and class one live (the two lowest socioeconomic classes in the city). La Boquilla is considered to be a fisherman village because the main activity for locals here is fishing. Fishing is so great in this area because the ocean is connected to the swamp, so local fisherman are able to catch fish from both areas of water. If you were to go to the village at 5:30am, you could purchase caught fish that are still alive, swim in the local water, and go prepare your freshly caught lunch.

There is a lot of construction taking place around La Boquilla, especially the building of hotels, so the locals have worked out a deal with the government. The deal is that hotels building around La Boquilla must employ 20 percent of their staff from the area. In addition, the must either feed these individuals once a month, or educate them in order to help give back to this community.

La Boquilla is known for having the biggest natural reserve in Cartagena. Mangroves here grow up and down, similar to the path of a circle. This is because when the mangrove grows downwards, it creates a new mangrove tree that continuously repeats the process. You can also tell the color of the mangrove by looking at the bottom of the trunk. The colors can be black, red, or white.

Something interesting about La Boquilla is the fact that numerous members of the community come together to raise money for one another and for their neighborhood. This is evident in the fact that some members make the canoes by hand, others row the canoes when tourists come to town, and a select few are in charge of organizing visits from tour groups in Cartagena. These canoe rides, offered on what is called a bote canoa chalupa (or small canoe boat), are a main source of income to the locals in La Boquilla, and they take great pride in the work that they collectively do.