BECOME AN ENLIGHTENED UPSTANDER by Rector Chris Girata
BECOME AN ENLIGHTENED UPSTANDER was published in the Katy Trail Weekly, "The Good Word" Column, February 1, 2020
Chris Girata is the Rector of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas, TX.
Stories have always been the most effective way to teach people. The best songs are great stories, the best movies are great stories and, when done well, even historic moments can come to life when told like the great stories they truly are. Stories make the past come to life, and if we’re lucky, lessons can be learned that keep us from repeating mistakes.
We all want to belong, to be chosen and approved of by others.
I’ve been thinking about the power of stories because last weekend, I was asked to be a speaker at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. This amazing facility is a living testament to the power of humanity, “teaching the history of the Holocaust and advancing human rights to combat prejudice, hatred, and indifference.” The museum makes clear that human power can be used for good and for bad, and it tells a full, complex story of both.
Monday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and this year, the world remembered the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp in Auschwitz. Survivors of Auschwitz gathered with more than a hundred others to remember the liberation of the camp, but the remembrance did not stop there. The hope of this event is twofold: to learn from the past in order to make a better future. This story is told in some traditional ways, by noting horrors of the past, but in some non-traditional ways, too.
One of those most notable, non-traditional ways of telling stories is focusing on what the museum terms “upstanders.” According to the museum, an upstander does three things: “stands up for other people and their rights, combats injustice, inequality, or unfairness and sees something wrong and works to make it right.” There are countless examples of upstanders throughout time. These are people who worked to do good, to raise others up and to protect them when possible, even at great personal risk. We all have something to learn from them.
We should not contribute to the hate and we should be part of the solution.
Our world is not what it could be. Today — this very day — there are global genocides that continue, including against the Rohingya in Myanmar, the Nuers in South Sudan, the Darfuris in Sudan and Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic, just to name a few. No matter who you are, we should all agree that far too many people die from violence in our world. We should not contribute to the hate and we should be part of the solution.
Today, you have the opportunity to learn from the past and make a better decision about your future. Each one of us has been created with a strength that can guide us into a better future. We are all strong enough to stand up to common cruelties that dehumanize others and to defend those who are vulnerable. Today, each of us will have an opportunity to be an upstander in our world. Make the good choice, and when we make that choice together, we can change the world.
"The Good Word" Column is published bi-weekly, and can be picked up at the Saint Michael South Entrance.
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