Our actions always have consequences. Sometimes seemingly unimportant and insignificant actions that go unnoticed by most have ripple effects that we could never imagine. This is important to remember. Not everything can be measured in actual time, not all consequences can be seen, even in one lifetime.
Some days ago I saw an image of a young boy in the Auschwitz concentration camp. The photograph was taken in May of 1944 by SS officers documenting the systematic murder of the people coming into the camps. The photograph pierces the heart.
Everyone in the image would face the gas chamber right after the picture was taken. Yet this small child finds a flower and offers it to boy across from him. And so all of these years later this gentle and beautiful gesture, one that few may have noticed, one that seemed insignificant and useless, sends a profound message to all who could bear to take to heart.
Sartre wrote in his play No Exit that hell was other people, but this boy’s actions remind us that even in the midst of the most gruesome of human hellscapes (the only ones that exist), we can notice and share beauty and affirm that love is stronger than hate. Love is indeed an antidote to hate and the means to the kind of world we long for.
Seventy-five years later, I recognize this little boy as a great teacher, someone I honor and vow to remember and continue to learn from.
Here’s the Tweet from the Auschwitz Memorial where I found the image. Follow them on Twitter.