An Anne Frank Thanksgiving
Many thanks to a local friend for sending me the following quote from Anne Frank, which in turn has set me to reflecting on some lessons her life gives us this strange Thanksgiving. “I do not think of all the misery, but of the glory that remains. Go outside into the fields, nature and the sun, go out and seek happiness in yourself and in God. Think of the beauty that again and again discharges itself within and without you and be happy.”
So after this rare Thanksgiving, when we were all isolated and perhaps far from family, what other lessons might we draw from Anne Frank’s life?
It has often occurred to me that people, who we now view as famous, did not know they would be famous when they were alive and doing the things that made them famous.
Consider Anne Frank. She was a young teenager when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, where she lived in Amsterdam. Friends concealed her and seven others in attic offices above her father’s place of business. She was there in hiding from 1942-44. It was during those years that she wrote down her thoughts that we know as her diary.
In 1944, someone reported her and her family and friends, and she was separated from them all and sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died of typhus nine months later at the age of fifteen.
She has come down to us as heroic, due to the publication of her “papers” in English in 1952. Her diary received worldwide acclaim and landed on the reading list of students all over the United States and likely elsewhere.
In her own experience while alive, though, she knew none of this. She knew fear, hatred, isolation, imprisonment, severe loss, deprivation and a lonely death.
However, she also had the priceless gift, imparted to the world by Buddhism, of not identifying with her feelings. She felt them, of course, but she also had the insight and the interior freedom to see beyond them. This is how she could genuinely share with us the quote at the top of the column. It is the combination of her severe suffering and her ability to rise above it, that made her famous.
When I sent this quote out in a Wisdomkeeper last weekend, an artist friend in another town responded, “I have told friends and students that if Anne Frank could survive two years in isolation, we can too. A friend who is 94, and still the director of an art center, told us that if she could survive five years of constant blackout, food shortage and family being killed in Europe during, World War II, we all will make it. Gives us courage.”
So it appears we only have to survive COVID-19 until spring, when the vaccine becomes available to the general population. Meanwhile, this can be a time to embrace our interior lives and see what wonders lie within.
To take another perspective, given that we have no healthy choice about gathering with the family this year, at least we won’t have to listen to certain of our relatives telling us the election was rigged!
Bill O’Brien is a consciousness coach and shamanic practitioner. He and his wife Linda have lived in Shepherdstown since 2005. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.