I could argue the merits of this philosophy. I could preach to you the terrible consequences of inaction and indifference. I could cite examples and statistics of the inhumane crimes people have committed against fellow human beings. I could explain to you that simply caring about something is not enough to have an impact. But if that was all I told you, then I wouldn’t accomplish much.
Every day, I am presented with choices, with opportunities to step in and make a difference. I usually choose to bow my head and continue on. ”It’s best not to get involved,” I tell myself in order to brush away the cobwebs of guilt that creep up on my conscience.
Every day at school, there is someone being bullied, or struggling in some way, or who simply exudes loneliness. I see them, and I do not do anything. Every now and then, someone will make a joke; say something that is derogatory or anti-Semitic. I freeze. The most I ever do is glare, or sometimes remark, ”That’s not funny.” I am afraid to do more. Why? Am I afraid of being singled out? Of being labeled a wet blanket? Of a hateful person discovering that I’m Jewish? Yes, I am afraid of all of these. And I can pretend that they are valid fears because no one is being harmed.
But when Jews were being relocated to Ghettos, they did not seem to be harmed. Even when they were sent to concentration camps, no one knew what would become of them. Maybe, as a German man walked by a Jewish family carrying suitcases and accompanied by SS men, he told himself, ”It’s best not to get involved,” and mentally brushed off a creeping sensation of guilt.
What if Oskar Schindler had decided not to get involved? The 1,300 Jews he employed in his factory would have perished. If Raoul Wallenberg had been afraid to do what he felt was right, 100,000 people would have died. According to Tom Lantos, ”[Wallenberg's] only authority was his own courage… he feared nothing for himself and committed himself totally. It was as if his courage was enough to protect himself from everything.” Countless lives were spared because ordinary people saw what was happening, and were not afraid to do the right thing. Though protecting Jews meant death if discovered, fear never entered the thoughts of these Rescuers.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that change only occurs when one person takes the first baby steps in the right direction, tests out the water, makes sure it’s safe. Then everyone else follows. In this way, courage promotes courage, fear and hate are abolished, and goodness is all that is left. You can’t stand on the sidelines cheering for the good people because that won’t change anything. Is it worth it to take a risk on someone else’s behalf? Absolutely- even if you are unsuccessful, you are in the right.
Mollie Doerner – First Place winner in the Holocaust Memorial Observance essay contest sponsored by the Greeley Holocaust Memorial Observances Committee of Greeley, Colorado
Mollie Doerner is a sophomore at Greeley West and is the first-place winner of the freshman/sophomore Holocaust Memorial Observance Essay Contest.