HOW A POOR, DESPERATE FAMILY MAN SAVED MY DAY

 

TODAY WAS MY FIRST ASSIGNMENT as a volunteer with “Die Tafeln“, a non-profit food bank, that bridges the gap between abundance and need. There are currently more than 930 “Tafeln” in Germany. All of them are nonprofit organizations. The Tafel, a non-governmental, civil society initiative, support more than 1.5 million people in need of food throughout the country – nearly one-third of them are children and youth. Germany has a higher poverty rate than the US and homelessness have risen 150 percent since 2014.

AS I ENTER THE ROOM, I see a black African crouching in a corner, kindness, and fear in his eyes as he greets me by gently lowering his head. A refugee from Sudan, as I learn later, just arrived in Germany. I forget him, start my activity until I hear his voice, loud and aggressive. He was denied access to this location, he had to go somewhere else, not this one. He speaks no German, other refugees from Syria translate the instructions of the officials for him into Arabic. In his face a mixture of desperation, incomprehension, aggressiveness, and anger. At some point I do not see him anymore, feel helpless, it’s my first assignment, I have no influence yet. The distribution of food is coming to an end. Then I see him again, as the last in the line of the waiting. I do not know how he managed to convince the officials, at least he is here now. His face is now peaceful, he is calm.

WE HARDLY HAVE ANYTHING TO DISTRIBUTE. All valuable food has already been handed out. There remain three unappealing apples and lots of bread. Baked goods are always in abundance, but have relatively few nutrients. Today, I am at the table of baked goods. Then he stands in front of me. On his food card is “11 people”. This is very much! On average, there are 3 to 5, maximum 7 people. Suddenly I understand the fear, the anger, the aggressiveness. And his insistence. He has to organize food for 11 people. He must not come back empty-handed. 10 people count on him!

NOW I WAS THE LAST OF US who could give him something and I had only baked goods, no better food. Baked goods abound. I presented him all the different sorts of bread in a row. He could choose, he decided, like an affluent customer in a shop. I felt blessed to give him everything he wanted. He got all the raisin buns and chocolate buns that I could find. For the children. His face now was that of a happy man who was richly gifted. I think it was less the bread but the chocolate buns for the kids. He left the location with bulging plastic bags and peace of mind. I do not know which of the two of us was happier. The one who took, or the one who could give.

Happiness and unhappiness, peace and rage, can be very close together, just a bread or a chocolate bun apart.

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Addendum: Hunger, poverty are on a steep decline on a global scale. That is great, but there is still a lot to be done.

 

A DIFFERENT TALE ABOUT GOOD AND EVIL

 

NOT SO LONG AGO, in the not so far away land, already known from the Different Tale of Two Brothers, an evil king seduced the people who became hostile to their neighbors, enslaved them, stole their properties and killed millions of them gruesomely. One of the evil king’s lieutenants, who once was a decent, unremarkable man, dehumanized himself, excelled in murdering civilians in the cruelest manner which made him infamous as ‘The Butcher’. Another lieutenant, once a diligent engineer, excelled in organizing the wars for the evil king, confiscating, stealing the riches of other peoples, forcing them to work for the war machine, due to the medieval saying ‘The War Which Feeds The War’ and he was called “The Organizer”.

WHEN THE FORCES OF LIGHT finally stood up and conquered the evil empire in an unprecedented epic, bloody war, both lieutenants were put on trial for their crimes, together with the other most malicious deputies of the evil king. During the trials, all defendants were united in a fierce denial about their felonies. Except for those two lieutenants. To the surprise of all, ‘The Butcher’ began to repent full heartedly and when he went to the gallows, he asked his victims and God for forgiveness. The “Organizer” admitted some guilt and became the only one of the evil king’s major lieutenants who was not sentenced to death but put into prison for many years. So justice was done, one way or the other, was it?

LET’S HAVE A LOOK at the real story which happened in and after Nazi Germany. Hans Frank, the ‘Butcher of Poland’ caused some of the most heinous excesses of inhumanity against the defenseless, suppressed citizens of Warsaw. He was indeed the exception, the only of the indicted war criminals in Nuremberg who repented full-heartedly and trustworthy, though he knew, his repentance wouldn’s spare his life. The “Organizer”, the evil king’s right-hand man Albert Speer, the alleged ‘good Nazi’, “Hitler’s Architect”, aka “The Architect of Death” wrote a book after his 20 years prison sentence, became famous and wealthy. But the fame and the wealth was not enough for him. After having been set free, he sold stolen Jewish arts which he had confiscated during the Nazi period. He became never indicted again and died in a London brothel. After all, he lied, he deceived, he didn’t change. His accomplice who helped him to sell the looted art was never put on trial in Germany, though his role as a concealer is known.

SO JUSTICE IS NOT WELL SERVED, righteousness is not rewarded? No happy end, instead of an outcome which puts right and wrong, good and evil upside down? Wait a minute, this story is not finished yet. Both war criminals lost the respect and love of their families. The butcher’s son published a fierce book about his father’s heinous life. Albert Speer’s son became a world-famous city planner who distanced himself from his father. His daughter was engaged in getting compensation for Russian slave workers in Nazi Germany and became a known figure in the German peace movement.

HOW THIS EPIC TALE about Good and Evil will end, if there is a righteous end, is to all of us, you and me. We decide every day anew on which side we are.The overall story about good and evil is defined finally by our own choices and decisions with which we write our own as well as the human history.

SEE ALSO “A DIFFERENT TALE OF TWO BROTHERS”