“I was brought up to believe that a person must be rescued when drowning, regardless of religion and nationality… The term ‘hero’ irritates me greatly. The opposite is true. I continue to have pangs of conscience that I did so little.”
The above is a quote from Irena Sendler. Irena was a Polish woman who, during World War II, helped smuggle 2,500 Jews out of Poland. She was eventually captured by the Nazis, but never revealed anything about her work or the location of the saved children, despite torture. She survived the war and so did the children.
Irena was pretty selfless as humans go, but despite the great danger her work put her in, she didn’t see it a hard choice.
Her attitude reminded me of Angela Merkel’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis. While other countries decided it was too complicated to save the millions of people about to starve or drown, Germany did not:
“I made my decision based on what I thought was right from a political and humanitarian standpoint”
When we face extreme scenarios, they don’t usually change us, so much as they force a response, and we make decisions about how to respond to situations every day. What if doing the right thing by others wasn’t the hard thing? What if actually, we just made it the easy thing by doing it automatically?
I think Irena’s story should encourage us to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing, however that might play out in your life.