Feed the Birds

January 9, 2008
Every day when I walk home from school, I pass a cute little house with a tree in the front yard. A symphony of music comes from that tree, with birds singing and leaves rustling. I’ve been walking past this house for six months, and every time I stop to listen to the music. One day a little old lady in her night gown came out of the house with a bag of birdseed. I watched as she spread the seed below the tree and talked to the birds as if they were old friends. Until that day it was a mystery to me why the birds flocked to that tree. It was then that I realized the true meaning of “making your own magic”. The tree was not magical because of its beauty and grace, but because the little old lady made it so.
In the early 1930’s, prior to Hitler’s assault on Europe, my great-great-grandfather Frank Solomon, a Polish Jew, left his homeland for the United States in order to gain a better life for himself and his family. Had he not left Poland at that time, who knows where my family would be today or if we would even exist. Because we did not have to endure the terror of the Holocaust, I feel that it is my duty to the families who suffered and perished to send a message to the world that the Holocaust is something to learn from and remember.
When I researched the Holocaust, I read about the 6 million Jews who were killed because of how they lived and what they believed in. I saw haunting pictures of the dead that sent chills up my spine. What these pictures and paragraphs cannot completely convey are the souls that were lost behind each set of eyes. With the pull of a trigger or the flip of a switch, entire families were lost. All that is left are scraps of paper or other trinkets that show proof of their existence.
The Holocaust was evil, and what is truly terrifying is that so many teenagers today are unaware of what happened. Without knowledge of our past we are bound to repeat the mistakes of those who came before us. In fact, since the Holocaust, almost 4 million people have died as a result of genocide. Those genocides have occurred in Cambodia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and currently, the massacre taking place in Darfur. With such evil still happening, I fear that the people of the world may never learn from their mistakes.
Because my generation did not experience the horrors of the Holocaust first hand, we can only share the experiences and the memories of those who survived. I think it is time for my generation to speak out against hate. Together we can rise up from the silence and challenge the voice of hate.
The prevention of prejudice, discrimination, and violence in our world today starts with focusing in on a target audience: the children. Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. They will be the ones making the decisions and teaching their children right from wrong.
Once this target audience is identified, we must decide where to find them. In order to teach children tolerance, I believe it is necessary to extend outside the walls of public schools and homes. Children are more likely to take a subject seriously if it is set in a relaxed environment and is led by a respected role model. Places my action plan would be most effective include: clubs, churches, athletic teams, and other active youth organizations. Our children need to celebrate and understand the differences between themselves and their fellow man. Once the message has been spread locally, perhaps international exchange programs could be implemented to help children learn tolerance of people from other cultures as well.
The final challenge facing this movement is deciding how to spread the message. There are many technological outlets that come to mind, such as television, video games, and the Internet. Though it is smart to take advantage of the increasing technological environment, it cannot be used alone. Technology needs to interact with the role models and guardians of children. When teaching morals and ethics, children are going to listen to the people they look up to and try to mimic their actions and beliefs. A great way to merge the human role model with technology is to create a free international multilingual website that would give programs and ideas to those people who have the biggest influence on our children. This way, all of the parents, club leaders, athletic coaches, teachers, and religious leaders, will have the tools they need to get their children to celebrate diversity. By decreasing hate, we decrease prejudice, discrimination, and violence. We as a group can create our own magic and make the world a brighter place by sending a message of tolerance to our children.
In order to understand a situation completely, one must view it from every possible angle, and study as many, if not all of the characters involved. In addition to thinking about the children of today, I must mourn the children of the Holocaust. "The only music I used to listen to in the camp was from a Greek man playing the mandolin. They say there was a band, but I never saw it. It was disgusting to listen to this beautiful music under a red sky due to the bodies burning in the crematories. There were neither birds nor grass anywhere to be seen. Yes, I saw the crematories, the smoke...I could even hear the screams and cries," recounts Judge Thomas Buergenthal, Auschwitz survivor.
Rudolf Hoess was the SS Kommandant of the death camp Auschwitz and was responsible for the extermination of at least 2.5 million people. If Rudolf Hoess had been taught the lessons of acceptance and tolerance at an early age, perhaps he would not have been a part of the Nazi regime. There is even the possibility that Hitler for that matter, could have been intercepted at an early age, and taught the message of peace and love. Million’s of lives could have been spared, if those that he looked up to could have taken the time to teach him the values of love and acceptance.
There is one question that each of us should ask ourselves; Do we want to be like the little old lady, and call the birds to our trees, or do we want to be like the crematoriums of Auschwitz, and scare them all away ?

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