Each of us has the moral capacity to make a difference in the lives of others. Your ordinary life lived well is extraordinary—even heroic. So live as God made you. Live for others, be the hero! ~Chris Edmonds
I came across the story the other day, somewhere on social media. And sometimes a story just sticks with you.
Just days before the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, a young (and relatively inexperienced) Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds arrived in the combat zone. Soon after the battle started, he was captured and spent a few weeks in one POW camp before being sent to another, called Stalag IX-A.
Stalag housed 1,275 American POWs. And as the senior non-commissioned officer among them, he was in charge.
And so, the camp’s commandant, Major Siegmann, summoned Edmonds (a Christian) to him. He ordered Edmonds to identify the Jewish POWs and present them at assembly the next morning.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Nazis tortured and killed Jewish POWs when they could be identified. That’s why Jewish soldiers were taught to “lose” their dogtags when captured; dogtags indicated with a single letter what religion a soldier practiced. An “H” for Hebrew was often a death sentence.
But here, the Nazis didn’t need dogtags. They had Edmonds.
So imagine his surprise when the next morning, Siegmann walked into the courtyard to see all 1,275 American POWs assembled in formation. Edmonds had gathered every last one of the POWs.
Siegmann was beyond livid. “You are to identify the Jews immediately.” He demanded.
Edmonds stood before him.
“We are all Jews,” he replied.
Even as Siegmann put a gun to Edmond’s head, Roddie didn’t back down. Instead, he reminded Siegmann that if any of the POWs were harmed, the commandant would be tried for war crimes.
In the end, it was Siegmann who backed down.
Roddie Edmonds saved over 200 men that day. One man – a young kid from Tennessee – saved 200 husbands, fathers, brothers, sons.
We are all Jews.
Do you remember that power? That power of … we are all?
In the very first days of the Trump administration, we took to the streets and the airports to protest the Muslim ban – whether we were Muslim or not. We took to the streets in Women’s Marches all over the country – whether we were women or not. We took to the phones to protect the ACA, maybe not because we needed it – but because we knew someone who did.
In the beginning of this, we were all.
We haven’t seen that same energized unity for a while, now. Exhaustion, overwhelm, depression, normalizing. All are good explanations. But maybe, too, because back in 2016, everyone was encouraged to pick one or two issues to really focus on. So as not to get burned out, I remember being told.
I strongly disagreed with that at the time, and I still do. Because what we’re dealing with is not an issue by issue problem.
It’s a systemic problem.
And maybe it’s easier to focus when you’re only looking at the space in front of you. But what happens when the rest of the world is on fire … but the ground in front of you is merely smoldering? Do you wait until the fire reaches you? Do you save energy?
We are all.
The American experiment has always been imperfect (at best). But our strongest and most pure moments have been when we’ve stood united, regardless of the cost.
When we’ve said “give me your tired, your hungry, your poor” and we’ve meant it. When we’ve locked arms and fought for civil rights, for voting rights, for women’s rights, for reproductive rights. We are at our best when we go back to what truly made us great in the first place: the revolutionary idea that we are all.
We are all jews.
We are all muslims.
We are all christians.
We are all races.
We are all genders.
We are all orientations.
We are all sick.
We are all poor.
We are all broken.
We are all…
Let’s get to work.
Tuesday: help puerto rico
No doubt you’ve heard about Puerto Rico’s most recent natural disaster(s) – a series of earthquakes that have caused yet more problems with their infrastructure. There are a few ways to help the people of Puerto Rico.
The first is to call your congressperson and ask them to push for adequate funding for Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans are US citizens, but they don’t get equal representation.
But – friend – we are all Puerto Ricans.
So we can speak for them.
Second, you can help fund relief efforts through the nonprofit organization UNIDOS. Through contributions to UNIDOS thousands of solar lamps are being made available for distribution (they’re also providing emergency funds for local health and human service providers). Hispanic Federation has also partnered with the University of Puerto Rico to provide mental health services across the island focused on trauma therapy – an important component that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Donate to the Hispanic Federation at: https://hispanicfederation.org/a_powerful_earthquake_hits_puerto_rico/
The World Central Kitchen, which swoops in and provides nutritious quality food for people after natural disasters, has been helping distribute the solar lamps mentioned above. They’re also a great organization to support. You can do that here: https://wck.org/news/puertorico-earthquake
Wednesday: Ask Your Local Officials – Can We Follow Missoula?
Climate change is here. Full stop.
But a lot of governmental officials are having a hard time wrapping their arms around the problem. Not so for Missoula, Montana.
For the past two years, a partnership of local leaders and government have thought though the problems they are facing … and considered how to solve them. They’ve shared their plans in a new website: https://www.climatereadymissoula.org The site and plan address vulnerabilities in sectors like agriculture, tourism, and building use. It’s thoughtful. It’s comprehensive.
It’s amazing. You should totally check it out.
And then you need to share it with the leaders of YOUR city, or county, or your state representatives. Because this is the kind of thoughtful analysis that I’m sure they’d like to do – they just haven’t seen examples of it.
Well, if you share this with them? They’ll see what’s possible. And Missoula might just give them a roadmap to follow…
thursday: Make MLK Day a Day ON not a day off!
Martin Luther King day is on Monday, and many of us will have the day free from work and school. That’s why the Youth Service America MLK list of activities is so great. They’re encouraging us to make MLK day count.
My favorite of their actions? Registering young people to vote. (But you can check out all of their ideas here: https://leadasap.ysa.org/mlkday/)
More than 14 million people will turn 18 between now and November 2020. Young people vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates – so registering, mobilizing, and empowering them is really important.
If you are a teacher or administrator at a school, you can get an Inspire2Vote Action kit to help maximize impact of any voter registration drives: https://www.inspire2vote.org/order_actionkit
Or go to the Campus Election Engagement Project for ideas on how to make campus-wide voter registration more effective. Frankly, their tips are good for all of us to follow! http://campuselect.org/voter-registration-2/register-students-to-vote/
Friday: Get Out Your Posterboard!
That’s right, folks! It’s time for the Women’s March!
On Saturday, people all over the country will march in solidarity. You can find a march near you here: http://womensmarch.com/sister-march
Take pictures and share them with me! I’d love to see them.
WHEW! GO TEAM!
P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.
If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.