Scaling Mount Everest

At our very first pilot workshop for Light of Our Survivors, a thoughtful young mother shared:  “I think of the Holocaust…and the many difficult decisions that normal everyday people struggled with.”  She paused, bit her lip, and continued. “I wonder what I’d do if a refugee family suddenly showed up at my doorstep.  If I turned them away it might mean certain death for them. And if I took them in, I might mean certain death for all of us….me, the refugees, my two young children.”

There was a long silence in the room.

As the workshop facilitator, I wondered how to respond.  I don’t know if there is such a thing as a correct answer to such difficult questions.  “Wow,” I said. “That’s the Mount Everest of moral questions. Who knows how any of us would respond in such a situation?”  

And that’s true.  Time and again, the kind of ethical quandary our participant posed in the comfort of our workshop was an awful reality in the tumultuous years of the Holocaust.  It was a quandary that arose unexpectedly – in the dead of the night, or interrupting a quiet family dinner. And often, a decision was made within moments, perhaps without even much thought.  Open the door or close it?

“We’re lucky.  We don’t have to climb Mount Everest today,” I said.  “So let’s just start with the easy steps that we can take immediately.  Patience…acts of kindness…standing up to bullying…soft words instead of harsh words.  Hopefully, if more of us do this, we won’t have to scale the Mount Everest of moral questions  But if it suddenly arises one day, and if we’ve been practicing all along, we can be better prepared to make a decision with an open, clear heart.”