Soon we will be starting our Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday. During Lent I often reflect on a portion of William Arthur Ward’s poem that is always hanging on my fridge:
I would like to add another line: Fast from hate, and feast on acceptance.
Last week I attended the annual Southwestern Alberta Teachers’ Conference Association convention at the University of Lethbridge. It is a great opportunity to gather new ideas, reaffirm some current practices, and connect with existing peers and new friends. I would like to share one new connection. Dr. Eva Olsson (www.evaolsson.ca) was one of the presenters at the convention. She is a wonderful person, and she is a Holocaust survivor. In 1944, at an age of 19, Eva and her family were forcefully moved from Hungary and shipped to various concentration and work camps, including the death factory of Auschwitz-Birkenau. She had the unfortunate experience of meeting the Angel of Death, Dr. Joseph Mengele. Eva exhibited resiliency and survived; she was liberated from the Bergen-Belsen camp by British and Canadian troops. Unfortunately, the only other survivor of the Holocaust was Eva’s younger sister. The rest of her family perished. After the war Eva married and settled in Sweden. With the fear of Soviet Union aggression, Eva immigrated to Canada. Now, at the age of 92, Eva continues to share her story.
Dr. Olsson has many reasons to hate. As a school administrator I am privy to some hardships that students and/or staff have experienced, but nothing that I have experienced or been witness to, compares to Eva’s experience. There is no hatred in her
voice, there is only acceptance and love. She reminded me people learn to hate, they are not born with it. If Eva can ‘fast from hate, and feast on acceptance’ I believe we all can.
Please consider keeping the traditional practices of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving this Lent, but as we hear about growing hatred south of our border and witness it creep into the fabric of our Canadian identity, I challenge all of us to ‘fast from hate, and feast on acceptance’. If Dr. Olsson, a Holocaust survivor, can do it, surely we can.