This little note is about the most well used birthday gift ever given. We all know that sometimes we receive things for our birthday and often after the novelty wears off, we put things aside and often forget that we even have them. I want to write a little today about a gift that was well appreciated and well used.
On this day in 1942 A young girl named Anne Frank celebrated her 13th birthday in Amsterdam. For her birthday she received a diary. And boy, did she make good use of it. Anne Frank’s ruminations have been read by generation after generation and have become a testimony to the ability of the human spirit, even a young human spirit, to rise above the most unspeakable evil and darkness to reflect a luminous love and hope. She reflected Good News! In her words,
“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”
This from a young woman who lived in secrecy because there were those who sought to punish and kill her and her family for their faith and ethnicity. Still in all of that she could name the truth of God’s love that everyone has a piece of good news inside. O how this world might be if we all took grasp of the ideal that we could make a difference; that we have potential; that we can love, even the most difficult of people? A cynic (I may have been accused of being one from time to time), might suggest this to be all idealistic. Anne Frank was aware of the idealistic nature of her theology, or her philosophy she addresses it directly in her diary;
“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
Today we seem prepared to assume the worst in people. I have found myself on a couple of occasions this week alone going immediately to the lowest common denominator, only to read these words today and as confirmation of the error in my ways. I have been shown consistently over the years that people are inherently good. I am sure that is true for most of us. We have all been impacted by people’s acts of kindness. Yet we think the worst of people. Why do we assume the worst in people? Why do we always focus so much of our energy on the rotten actions of people that are far less frequent in reality than the goodness that people most times reflect?
There are no easy answers to that question, but for at least a possible an answer I look to the great CS Lewis and his great satirical book – The Screwtape Letters. This book takes the form of letters from a senior demon or devil named Screwtape to his junior apprentice and nephew Wormwood. He instructs Wormwood in how to affect the mind of the ‘Patient.’ You are the ‘Patient’ and I am the ‘Patient.’ Their goal is to turn us from the “Oppressor” or God to what Screwtape refers to as ‘Our Father,’ the devil. In one of the letters Screwtape writes, “Suspicion often creates what it suspects!” And this is so true. We allow our own suspicion of the other to cloud our judgement and paint our perceptions of who people are and how they might act.Our suspicion makes the other suspicious. Anne Frank is the antiserum to the darkness of the demon of whom Screwtape and Wormwood are agents. Anne Frank lived in a time when she had every reason to be suspicious and cynical about other people and in her most intimate musings we read about how she really still believes “that people are good at heart.”
So much of what guides our behaviour is fear driven response to what is happening in our own lives and sadly even fear of ‘the other.’ “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.” Reading this reminded me of the great 15th century mystic Julian of Norwich who famously said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” God is good and Anne Frank displays a confidence in her young life that God is seeing to all things, even in the midst of her fear. I hope and pray that I may share that confidence. And I hope that I too can assume the optimistic attitude of Anne Frank that I might make a difference. I pray that we would all drink into our hearts her words, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Like I said, that dairy was one well used gift! She did not wait a moment to use a gift that she was given.
What gifts have we received?
What are we doing with the gifts that we were given?
So what are we waiting for? The world is waiting to be improved!