Real Sheltering at Home: The Diary of Anne Frank

Posted: July 16, 2020 in Uncategorized

Anne FrankFor those of us who are not on the front lines, not required to provide health care service during the pandemic, not work in jobs that are risky, our time of sheltering at home presents a different kind of challenge. We may have to contend with our own boredom, the loss of social interaction, or the interruption of life patterns. We may not like the ways our ordinary freedoms have been curtailed. Masks may be irritating. And the longer it goes the more certain psychological effects are felt: isolation, lack of direction, uncertainty about the future. Wondering about school.

However real this is – and it is real – it pales in comparison to other kinds of sheltering at home which are more urgent, the kind of necessary sheltering in which life is up for grabs: War that brings hiding from combatants. Blackouts to avoid the bombs from above. The power grid going dark in the middle of winter. Slow starvation. The Vietnamese living in tunnels as B52s dropped their payload on them.

In the midst of the rising genocide of the 2nd World War, Jews hid from Nazis who did everything in their power to exterminate them. In large part they were very successful in implementing their project, the “final solution.” If families were not able to flee to other countries before the borders were locked down, if they were not able to hide and remain undetected, they were captured, summarily executed, or sent to concentration camps. Such was the story of the Frank family and those who hid in Amsterdam with them.

Anne’s journal – and the later edits of it when she imagined a future book telling the story – reveals a world of horror told through the mind of a girl who went into hiding when she was thirteen and stayed until she was fifteen. It includes many of the preoccupations of any adolescent. But it also itemized the deprivations, military actions, racial profiling and death that stalked the Jewish community. We read the lists of Jewish laws that curtailed all freedoms and segregated Jews in every aspect. There are the tensions experienced among people living in close quarters for long periods of time. We are filled with fleeting hope as we hear the good news of the Allies advancing.

Anne and her family did not make it; they were betrayed, apprehended and sent to the camps. Her journals – left behind – were saved and later carefully published for the world to experience her story from the inside.

As I read Anne’s Journal, I realize how very shallow are my concerns about sheltering in place. I am not hiding. There is no imminent threat outside the door. What I experience is at most a psychological or spiritual challenge, some uncertainty about the unknown future. But I am not wondering if the Gestapo will find me or if some collaborator has informed on me.

Everything is relative. Just reading about the kind of sheltering required of the Frank family provides real perspective. My little concerns are just that, little. That realization provides room for compassion toward those who truly suffer in so many ways, and at the same time provides a merciful deliverance from self-preoccupation and the downward spiral into self-pity, a descent that can destroy us as surely as a virus can.

 

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