As part of my relentless search for truth and resolution for World War II and the Holocaust, I was fortunate to encounter a book called The Librarian of Auschwitz, by Antonio Iturbe and Lilit Thwaites. This is a remarkable book of courage and determination, full of brilliant language and poignant observations. But I was stopped in my tracks by a quote from one of the educators in Auschwitz. The quote was this: “Each time someone stops to tell a story and children listen, a school has been established.”
As an educator and historian, this piece of philosophy creates magnificent images for me. The first is an opportunity to create schools wherever we are. No need for brick and mortar institutions – kids are everywhere. We see them in stores, restaurants, parks, playgrounds, museums and anywhere else you can name. And each time we do, there always exists the potential for creating a school. And simply for the sake of clarity, I define a school as an entity where knowledge of any type is transmitted and received.
How about this for an example? You’re in a grocery store and the lady in front of you observes that she left her wallet at home and seeks desperately for a method of payment. You quietly let the lady know that you’ll take care of her groceries. The child in her cart observes, wide-eyed and smiling.
The same grocery store and you’re in line to check out. A lady behind you has a small child and only one or two items. Once again, you quietly let the lady know that she is welcome to get ahead of you in line, for the purposes of getting out of the store with haste.
Those of you who home school your children understand this quote better than most folks. An inherent beauty of home schooling is the fact that the entire day is filled with teaching, from cooking breakfast to cleaning house, to walking the puppy, to communicating with visitors.
For the rest of us, we can find a plethora of teaching moments. Explain to your child that dropping clothing and household items at Goodwill or a thrift store enables those with limited resources to buy those things. Because giving cash to panhandlers can be expensive if practiced constantly, use the periodic donations to explain to children that it’s a good practice to help those in need.
Educating is a privilege and pleasure, no matter where, when or how. Think of it as I do – one more addition you can make to the beautification of the world. Shalom.