This is a guest post written by my dear friend and inspiration, Amanda Walker.
Individuals, families and whole communities are connected through stories. These stories can make an average person courageous, a worried man hopeful and a broken human find healing. When a person has a reservoir of great stories they can draw on them when they need encouragement. Shared stories strengthen and define a community by creating a common language among them. The power of stories is incredible.
Take for example the story of The Little Red Hen. We all probably remember how the story unfolds. The Hen asks for help with planting, harvesting and eventually baking the bread. We learned the moral that “you reap what you sow” as well as “if you help with the work you can enjoy the reward”.
This is a simple story we share in common. If I exclaimed, “I feel like the Little Red Hen” you would most likely understand what I meant. I would like some help, if you want some of the reward. I didn’t have to retell the whole story to get the point across, you just “get it”. There is a powerful connection made among people who share stories, because they can communicate with efficiency as well as effectively.
There is a theory among some that say our prison system is filled with criminals which share a common factor. Many say that most of the inmates are illiterate and that is why they break the law and end up in jail. Yet others believe that the real problem is that these individuals are devoid of great stories, inspiring, courageous and hopeful stories.
When you read or even hear a powerful story you have an opportunity not only to be instructed but also to discover truth. This is accomplished by uncovering principles and recognizing patterns in the circumstances and characters of the story. When you need to make a hard choice or are struggling with trials ennobling stories can be recalled and thus help and encourage you. This is what is missing in the lives of many people and hence they experience hopelessness and despair.
With all this espousing about stories, may I tell you one?
Irena Sendler, a little Polish nurse appeared out of obscurity when she became a candidate for the Noble Peace Prize. Her story reaches straight into the heart and tugs at our humanity.
When the walls of the Jewish ghetto raised it’s ugly head, many of the good people of Warsaw knew the fate was sealed for their Jewish neighbors. There was little hope for the adults but perhaps some of the children could escape out of that dark, cold prison. Irena knew she was given and opportunity to rescue those who were in desperate need.
As a health inspector she had access daily in and out of the ghetto. Over the period of three years she smuggled children to freedom in the bottom of her tool box, sacks, and even coffins. Small babies were sedated to avoid capture. She even kept a dog in the front seat of her car causing him to bark if a distraction was necessary.
Her rescues ended when she was discovered and immediately found herself in prison. Valiantly, Irena would not reveal her accomplices. Her feet and legs were broken. Her conscience, the most sacred of all property, would not allow her to divulge the names of those who had helped her. Her own life was miraculously spared by events that were no less a miracle. On the day she was scheduled to be killed by firing squad someone bribed the guard and she was released.
Intending to return as many children to their families as possible she wrote the names of the little ones on cigarette papers. Secretly she put them in a jar which was buried under a tree across the street from her home. After the war she was only able to restore a few children back to their families because most parents had been killed. Over the three years she made rescue attempts, 2500 children were saved. Being a quiet hero she told her story but a few times so the world knew little about her heroism.
Until three girls from Kansas came to visit her in Poland with intent to interview her and learn more about these marvelous events. When asked why she did it she simple said, “My parents taught me that when someone is drowning you must jump in to save them even if you don’t know how to swim.”
You may not have the terror of living a time that is as evil and repugnant as Nazi Poland but much can be gained by connecting with this story. By discovering truth, celebrating personal virtue and modeling resolute leadership qualities you can become a little like Irena. The power of her story can change your life and the lives of your family.
Consider yourself invited to come on a journey of discovery, let this story strengthen you and inspire greatness in you. Share this story with others and you will build a common language that will speak volumes. All of life is a story for you to learn and grow from. Gain the education that comes from not just reading but studying amazing and worthwhile stories. Learn the power of stories.
Irena Sendler’s life told a marvelous story. Your life is a story. What are you telling the world?
Amanda lives with her husband and 5 children in Montana. They educate their children at home and operate a classic book store in their town.