Here’s one story, about Filipino men who fought for the U.S. in WW II with a promise of citizenship and benefits that were then denied to them once the war was over. They and their families could have held on to their pain and bitterness. Instead they waited for the one thing they were promised.
The other story I can’t link to as it’s behind the subscription wall for Sports Illustrated is about a Holocaust survivor. He was a child then and saw almost his entire family killed. And, then there were the many other atrocities he saw and experienced. One of the stories he tells is that he and his father were spared for a time. I don’t remember the details from the article, but the two of them weren’t in the ghetto when it was cleared but they returned shortly after and all he can remember of that day is “feathers.” Because soldiers had destroyed everything, including pillows and blankets, leaving the air filled with feathers.
Anyway, this gentleman, by the name of Ben Helfgott, survived along with one of his sisters. His mother, father and other sister perished, as well as 20 of 24 cousins. After the war, 1,000 children who survived were shipped to England. They were known as The Boys. Why? Because, apparently, girls did not survive the holocaust at the same level as boys did. He eventually became an Olympic weightlifter (look him up on Wikipedia), serving as the captain of Great Britain’s team in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics.
What the wikipedia entry doesn’t get into, but the Sports Illustrated article does is Mr. Helfgott’s charity work. Those 1,000 survivors eventually formed a group called the ’45 Aid Society. Initially, it was formed as a support group for the survivors. But as they grew up and achieved success of their own, they expanded the charitable efforts of their organization. Mr. Helfgott has been instrumental in keeping the spirit of the organization alive, speaking at its annual meeting and reminding the participants that they cannot let the horrible evil they experienced define them. That instead they should use their successes to help, to spread good, to be good and do good.
Think about it … this is the kind of spirit that is far too absent in today’s culture. It’s not about letting hurt go. It’s not about doing for others. These men — the Filipinos in the first story and Ben Holfgett and his fellow survivors — saw and experienced the absolute worst the human race has to offer. They chose to not let that experience define them and keep them angry and bitter. Yes, they held on to their memories — in fact, that is one of Ben Holfgett’s deepest wishes, that he never forgets and does everything to make sure that the survivors’ stories are recorded — but not to the point of dysfunction.
It would be nice if more people could let go of pain and bitterness and hurt and move on.