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Freewrite: Miep Gies, RIP

January 12, 2010

Miep Gies died yesterday. She was 100 years old. She said of herself that she was not a heroine, but just an ordinary woman, someone who had no choice. Miep Gies helped shelter Anne Frank and her family and keep them alive for two years and was responsible for finding and preserving Frank’s diary. She risked her life for two years but she had no choice. She was just an ordinary woman. How many of us are ordinary? How many of us have no choice? I don’t know anyone reading this, but I have a basic optimism when it comes to people that most of us, despite our flaws, are good people at heart. Most of us will hold a door for a stranger if we think of it and most of us – at least on a good day – will slow down and let another driver merge into traffic. We’ll bring donuts into work just because. We focus on the inconsiderate and the rude and the self-centered, but I believe – I have to believe – they don’t matter in the grand scheme of things and that at the end of the day they’re in the minority. They’re a test and nothing more. I think a good number of us will withhold our judgment and look beyond the easy assumptions and give a stranger asking for spare change whatever change we have in our pockets because we know deep down in someplace we can’t name – or are afraid to name –  that doing that is the right thing to do for someone else. Don’t get me wrong now, that’s all good stuff and helps keep the world oiled so nothing against any of that, but can any of us say that we’re Miep Gies? Would any of us see what needs to be done and despite the risk of harm, of death!, realize that we simply have no choice? Would we take that risk for a stranger? I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t. That I couldn’t. And between you and me, that makes me feel pretty cruddy, but that’s another topic for another time. I’m reminded right now of the eulogy for Bobby Kennedy back in whenever and his brother Ted said that Bobby was the type of person who ‘saw a wrong and tried to right it, who saw suffering and tried to heal it’, and it gives me a chill, not because it’s the way I always have wanted to live my life, but because I haven’t always been very successful at it – running, rationalizing, ignoring, hiding instead. Not thinking that ‘I have no choice’. I don’t know if that makes me selfish or what, probably not, and looking back isn’t really important. What’s important is that Miep Gies is dead and the world is worse for it. We’re all worse for it because we don’t have her example anymore. What’s even more important is what do I decide to do tomorrow because I have no choice.

Miep Gies. RIP

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