Tomorrow 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:
In a few days, I will be attending the annual Southwestern Alberta Teachers’ Conference Association convention this year virtually due to the pandemic. I remember a past session I attended a few years ago featuring Dr. Eva Olsson. She is a wonderous person, and she is a Holocaust survivor. In 1944, at the 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.
At the age of 96, Eva continues to share her story (www.evaolsson.ca).
Dr. Olsson has many reasons to hate. As a school administrator, I am privy to some hardships that students and staff have experienced, but nothing 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 almsgiving this Lent. Still, as we hear about growing hatred and witness it creeps 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, indeed we can.