Image: Friends, Robert Smit and Timon Hagen, in front of the Anne Frank Montessori School in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
I've recently returned from Holland.
Timon Hagen, pictured in the photo, arranged a visit to the Anne Frank Montessori School in Amsterdam. Timon's children currently attend. Robert's child graduated from this school and now attends another school.
As we approach, the front walk is filled with children and parents. Kids hop on their parent's bikes and head off for lunch.
I see colorful stripes with words across the building facade. Robert says it is an Anne Frank quote. Loosely interpreted, the verse says, "I love Holland and adopt it as my country. I look forward to the day when I can give back in service to Holland."
We enter the school.
A mosaic memorial in the foyer lists children taken from the school, and killed. Timon says as we pause quietly in front of it, "I have two daughters attending this school. I can imagine the feeling Frank Otto (Anne's father) had. He was a father of two daughters as I am. The thought of what happened to him, to his daughters is beyond my conception."
After our school visit, we walk to a local Jewish deli for lunch. We talk about the school, the liveliness of the children attending, and their lessons and ours. We talk about Anne Frank and her enduring spirit, the same spirit echoed by Viktor E. Frankl in his book, Man's Search for Meaning.
Frankl writes about living in the concentration camp. And what could not be taken from him. He says that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.
While there, I purchase and reread The Diary of Anne Frank. Her story reveals a spirit similar to Frankl's, and a time unimaginable.
I see Anne Frank as stronger and more vulnerable than I recalled. Only her father survives the concentration camps and it is he who passes her diary on to us.
Her diary is a description of hiding. After over a year of hiding within a despicable context, Frank writes about delight and gratitude!
On occasion, late at night, she peeks through a cracked-open window. From that slight opening she looks out and sees the sky and feels a breeze on her cheek. She sees the moon and writes, "Riches, prestige, everything can be lost. But the happiness in your heart can only be dimmed; it will always be there, as long as you live, to make you happy again."
Oh, breath-giving gratitude! I'm hanging onto that. (Thank you, Anne Frank.)
No matter the adversity that comes in life--the seed of happiness within is simply dimmed--infact, can only be dimmed. Happiness is always there. Always. And gratitude nourishes the seed.