"The power of one" is a phrase that keeps running through my mind, as I think of the millions of people doing everything they can to spread kindness and take care of one another right now.
In many ways, Anne Frank was just an ordinary girl, but she and her family lived in extraordinary circumstances. And she was surrounded by people who accomplished the extraordinary — such as the six helpers who put their own lives at risk to hide, care for, and protect their Jewish friends and neighbors.
Anne Frank herself did not realize how extraordinary she was, how the private musings of an adolescent girl would one day wield the power to inspire millions of people for decades to come. She aspired to be a professional writer but was deprived of the chance to see that dream achieved.
We turn to her words for many reasons: to understand the Holocaust, to catch a glimpse of life for those in hiding, to see another world through the eyes of a teenage girl caught in the midst of uncertainty. We know the ending she could only imagine, which of course makes her story all the more tragic. Such creativity, wisdom, and compassion in a child so young! Such unfulfilled promise for the woman she would have become, if only her life hadn't been stolen to senseless hatred.
"I don't want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that's why I'm so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that's inside me! When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?" - Anne Frank (April 5, 1944)
Anne Frank saw the good in spite of the evil that threatened so many. She turned to nature to revive her spirits and imagine life again outside. Her diary was her outlet as she was cut off from her friends and relationships that pre-dated their seclusion. The social isolation prompted her to turn inward and learn to trust herself, to live vicariously through her short stories, and to grow stronger and more secure in her own identity. Today we similarly vent and share our own stories, turning to Anne for a reminder that we can likely handle a temporary lockdown. I recall a school principal years ago sharing her awe at the perspectives revealed through our "Art of Self-Discovery" program. Deeply moved by the poems and self-portraits her students produced, she admitted: "I never really knew the way they saw themselves and the world around them."
We sometimes joke among ourselves that there's an Anne Frank quote for everything — which isn't too far from the truth! She was frustrated with her mother, infatuated with a boy, simultaneously scared and curious about human development and love. She dreamed of the life she would live when the war was finally over and mourned the loss of those fighting on her behalf.
"It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart." - Anne Frank (July 15, 1944)
In the worst of situations, Anne held on to hope. Even now, 75 years later, her words still teach us how to remain human in times of suffering. There is much we can still be grateful for and endless ways we can remain connected to others. Keeping a diary didn't just help her cope; she wrote much of it with the hope of one day showing others what her life was like. Her words still inspire. That's the magic of Anne Frank — and the power of one person to make a difference.
Wishing the best for you and your family,