This time of year always makes me reflective. Usually, I’m trying to look back at the last year; what I’ve accomplished and what I still haven’t managed to do.
This year was different though.
I’d gotten to thinking about the Drama Club from high school after getting a message from a friend about a show we’d done when I was a sophomore.
As I went through them in my head the other day, it was clear that there had been something to be learned from each one. How to speed up costume changes, or hit a high G in a solo, or remember all those dance moves in the musical while remembering to sing the right part. There was so much to learn beyond that though, as well. I remember learning to prioritize. I remember trying to figure out mnemonics to help me remember lines (and then use those tricks to remember things in my classes, too). I remember learning to get along with others better and to learn how to take disappointment in stride.
One show was the one I learned the most from, however. My junior year I played Edith Frank in “The Diary of Anne Frank.” I could list all of the things we learned about performing reader’s theatre-style performances and hunting through local consignment shops and grandparents’ closets for 1940s era clothing. But our director had wanted us to learn more from this show. She wanted us to learn about history, and about doing the right thing. She wanted us to learn about how to keep hope alive in ourselves as the heroine of the play, Anne Frank, did despite horrible circumstances.
The U.S. Holocaust Museum had recently opened that year. And we were going to Washington D.C. on a field trip there, to experience (as close to first-hand as possible) what people targeted by the Nazis could have felt, and how those who managed to hide from their oppressors might have been afraid of by seeing and learning in-depth about the horrors visited on these people.
Powerful, terrifying, tragic and heart-wrenching were words I could remember having written in my required essay on the experience. The fear of this happening again seemed very real to me, and in the past few months, that fear has risen again for my fellow humans on this planet. The saying that history repeats itself has been on repeat in my head.
One other thing I know I wrote about in that essay was the quotation posted near the end of the museum experience by Protestant pastor, Martin Niemoller, a survivor of seven years in the concentration camps and an outspoken foe of Adolf Hitler and his regime. It reads: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” He’d given this quote in one of his early post-war lectures, making it fairly clear that he’d believed the Protestant churches of Europe had, by their silence, been complicit in what happened to so many people in Europe in the camps and crimes of the Nazi party.
With this, I come back to current times and the newly approaching 2018. I challenge myself, and you, dear reader, to the same thing. Let’s not worry about self-improvement resolutions we might keep for a week or two. Instead, let’s think of others, and be the one who speaks up in the face of injustice, inequality, bullying or assault. Be the person there to do the talking for the ones whose voices can’t or won’t be heard.
And let’s keep that hope my high school friends and I felt alive in the new year and beyond.