Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rich Americans--Lucky Us

It's amazing how a book can change your whole perspective on things--at least for a little while (the effect does eventually wear off). I'm reading this book called "The Nazi Officer's Wife," and it is making me appreciate my life so much right now. The main character in the book, Edith, is a Jewish woman trying to get through the difficult period in Germany right before the Holocaust. It is so sad, because Edith starts out with a very happy childhood, and grows up to be a confident young woman. In her late teens she enters into a university to study law, which in of itself is quite an amazing feat for a woman in the late 1930s and early 1940s. But at this point of the story tension begins to build, and the Jews in the story quite rapidly become victims of unimaginable prejudice and discrimination. Little by little, her family begins to lose everything they own, but the worst is when Edith goes to take her final law exam (equivalent to the BAR exam here in the U.S.--sorry, don't know how to spell that acronym). She is so excited and eager...she has worked hard for this moment, has devoted years of her life to her studies and conquered all obstacles, and it is the only thing left for her to do before getting her degree. But when she arrives, the "Aryan" woman behind the counter tells her (with a gleam of sadistic satisfaction in her eyes) that she can not take the test. Because Edith is Jewish, she has officially been kicked out of the university and will never practice law. It is so heart-breaking. You can practically see everything that she has worked her whole life for just slipping through the cracks of her fingers while her eyes pool up with tears. So currently in the novel, Edith, this brilliant young woman who (practically) has a law degree, is forced to do back-breaking labor on fields and in factories in order to keep herself and her family alive. Her life is so miserable, but you don't feel miserable when reading about it. She's a survivor, and her courageous outlook makes it easy to not want to weep in despair for her. Rather, you just want to cheer her on.

So today, when I entered my warm cozy classroom, I just couldn't help but feel so blessed to have the life that I have. I get to work this cushy job where the worst of my problems are seventh graders getting under my skin from time to time. I get to come home to limitless meals and a nice warm bed to sleep in, and security. Poor Edith shivered every night on her cot, and had nothing but diluted cabbage soup and stale bread to eat, and had no idea what dangers tomorrow would bring. What's tragic is that although Edith's story takes place in the past, there are so many people across the globe who live this life of uncertainty on a daily basis...who don't know where their next meal is going to come from and don't know how much closer to death tomorrow will bring them. We are so rich here in America--even poor Americans are rich by the globe's standards. I wish I could remember this every single day, so that I would stop acting spoiled when I want something new, like hardwood floors for my house or new car. I could appreciate what I have so much more if I could just keep other people's circumstances at the fore-front of my mind. But, unfortunately, the perspective I gleaned today will be forgotten tomorrow, and I'll be back to spoiled me again.