I made the mistake of reading the news yesterday.  The article on the genocide in Bosnia did not sit well with me as it should not with anyone.  I emailed some aide organizations to see what they were doing to help families in the former Yugoslavia, but have not heard back.  So, I emailed my cousin – a man who has travelled the broken country, speaks the languages and knows our history.  I asked him how it affects him to hear of the violence that occurred in the early 90s and of the tensions still present today.  He wrote that his teaching position was cancelled when the war broke out and he watched on CNN as the Yugoslav army rolled into Dubrovnik and began shelling – He described this moment as “one of the most painful and sorrowful” days of his life.  

I’ve never been to the region (I’ve never even been overseas) and yet, I feel ties to the country.  I hear in their voices my own grandfather’s accent.  The same man who sat beside me once and ate an entire apple; core and all.  When I asked him why he ate the whole apple, he just smiled and in his smile I recognized, even as a child, something older; a feeling more primitive than anything I had experienced in my young life.  His smile was a veil protecting me from ever knowing hunger.  “I hope you will never understand,” he said.  

Though I knew him only briefly, when my grandfather spoke, I clung to the rich sounds of every word.  He called me “Samantrah.”  I felt like a princess the way he said my name.  

So my dear cousin who, after hearing the above, refers to me now as Lady Sam, reminded me this last email, that the pain suffered in our homeland is very real.  That the crimes are severe and atrocious and appear at once unforgivable.  But he also reminded me that for the most part, “people are good and kind, if ignorant and unpolished.”  He also used the word “plemenit,” the Croatian word meaning generous, noble, gentle, refined.   It’s a word that means chivalry – a good-natured kind of word encompassing those solid traits to which we may all aspire.  

We may feel helpless thousands of miles away from a land where our ancestors learned the meaning of this word, but we do not need to abandon hope.  For the lesson my cousin learned in all of this was that we are not helpless.  We can continue to draw from our lineage – from those lessons carried on through generations of tolerance, patience, forgiveness, and peaceful resolutions.  We can make a more peaceful homeland right here wherever we are just as our ancestors would have done.

Today and everyday please battle the unconscionable acts of this world with acts of kindness and tolerance to others.

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