A Heartwarming Story of Friendship: The Jesse Owens Story

745px-Jesse_Owens3

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

I decided that for the next few blog posts, which I am going to share some great stories of friendships that I have found. When you read this (and other forthcoming stories), try to envision yourself in the environment and situation that these people were experiencing at the time. Hopefully, it will give you a “feel” of how they felt and why their story of friendship is so special.

The 1936 Olympics was held in Berlin, Germany. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party had risen to power three years earlier and were already to spread their evil beliefs of racism and hate.  Hitler believed that the “perfect” person was from an Aryan race…a blue-eyed, blond haired, the perfect physique without any blemishes or handicaps.

Hitler saw the Games as an opportunity to promote his government and ideals of racial supremacy to the world. The official Nazi party newspaper wrote in the strongest terms that Jews and Black people should not be allowed to participate in the Games. However, when threatened with a boycott of the Games by other nations, Hitler relented and allowed Black people and Jews to participate.

After much deliberation and debate whether or not to boycott the Olympics, the United States and other nations decided to participate in the Games.

One of the American athletes was a Track and Field star named Jesse Owens and he was black. Jesse Owens seemed sure to win the long jump at the 1936 games. The year before he had jumped 26 feet, 8 1/4 inches — a record that would stand for 25 years.

As he walked to the long-jump pit, however, Owens saw a tall, blue eyed, blond German taking practice jumps in the 26-foot range. Owens felt nervous. He was acutely aware of the Nazis’ desire to prove “Aryan superiority,” especially over blacks. At this point, the tall German introduced himself as Luz Long. “You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed!” he said to Owens, referring to his two jumps. For the next few moments the black son of a sharecropper and the white model of Nazi manhood chatted. Then, Long made a suggestion. Since the qualifying distance was only 23 feet, 5 1/2 inches, why not make a mark several inches before the takeoff board and jump from there, just to play it safe? Owens did and qualified easily. In the finals Owens set an Olympic record and earned the second of four gold medals.

The first person to congratulate him was Luz Long — in full view of Adolf Hitler. Hitler was furious and embarrassed. Owens never again saw Long, who was sent out to the front lines and was killed in World War II. “You could melt down all the medals and cups I have,” Owens later wrote, “and they wouldn’t be a platting on the 24-carat friendship I felt for Luz Long.”

~ David Wallechinsky in The Complete Book of the Olympics ~

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This is an amazing story of how a friendship trumped the hatred and racism of a nation and a crazy man’s ideology! How thankful are you of the friends that you have? Could your friendship(s) withstand the “storms” of life and the hard times that might come your way? How much can you go out of your way to be a friend to someone in unpleasant situations? REALLY good friends are hard to find…and if you have one…Be THANKFUL!

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“Prosperity begets friends, adversity proves them.”  ~ Unknown ~

Your Life Is Not Your Own

german

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

This is a re-post of an article that I posted a couple of years ago around Memorial Day. It is a powerful message that you will not soon forget. This an amazing account of incredible sacrifice during World War 2 involving simple towns people. Warning: Tissues WILL be required!

Around this time each year, Memorial Day, I am reminded of a story that I once heard. Though the exactness of it I cannot confirm, I am assured its basis is quite factual, and its message definitely deserves to be retold.

The story is of a man, Andrew, who was known all his life for selfless sacrifice and good works. He always stood in defense of the defenseless, and toiled without tiring, standing up for the downtrodden and underprivileged. As he grew old, and people tried to honor him for his well-lived life of service, he was reluctant to accept the praise and attention that his community desired to heap upon him. It was then, for the first time, that he told a story that had burned deep in his heart and was hard for him to relate.

Andrew was a young man, thirteen years old and living in Austria, when the Germans invaded. The Austrians, brave and proud, decided to fight back. In the town where Andrew lived, the men and teenage boys organized and destroyed a power plant that the Germans relied on to continue their war effort. The men and boys all knew this would cause great hardship on themselves as well, for they also relied on the power from the plant. But the thing they had not counted on was the swift and severe retribution that would come from the Nazi invaders.

The next morning, before the sun was even up, trucks rolled into town. Soon, the sound of marching soldiers was heard in the streets. The men and boys of the town, twelve years old and older, were ordered to the town square. Andrew found himself standing in a line with the other men and boys, still trying to wipe the sleep from his eyes.

The commanding officer berated them, and told them they were fools to think they could stand against the might of the German army. He told them they were nothing, and their minuscule efforts would not slow down the German war effort, but it would hurt them because a price was going to be paid for their rebellion. He then said that every 20th man in the line would be shot.

As each 20th man was pulled from the line and marched away, Andrew looked down the line and started counting. With horror, he realized that he stood in a 20th position. He trembled with fear as the soldiers moved closer and closer to him, and the shots started to ring out at the edge of town where the unfortunate men were being taken.

As the Germans continued to move down the line, Andrew could see others counting and their eyes turning to him with a look of pity and concern. Andrew found himself wanting to flee, but too frightened to move. Even if he tried to run, the soldiers on the trucks, with the mounted machine guns, would cut him down before he could get ten yards.

But then, in the instant that the last man before Andrew was pulled from the line, the Germans turned their eyes away, and Andrew felt a hand on his shoulder. The hand tightened quickly, and before he knew what had happened, he was jerked forcibly over one spot, and the old man who had been standing next to him moved swiftly to switch positions.

Andrew looked up at the silver haired man and the man smiled. Just before he was taken from the line and led away, the old man spoke quietly to Andrew. “Your life is no longer just your own. Live it for both of us.”
Andrew watched silently as the old man disappeared from view toward the edge of the village. His heart jumped as the shots sounded, shots that Andrew knew should have been his own. In that instant, tears flowing down his face, he determined he would indeed live his life for both of them. From that day he had tried to live so that the unknown old man would have felt his sacrifice was well repaid.

Each time I consider the flags flying by the many graves in the cemetery, thinking back on Andrew’s story, I realized that no one’s life belongs just to them. Each of us owes a debt to many who have paid prices through hardship, hard work, and even the sacrifice of their lives, from which we have benefited.

With the wind gently whipping the flags in the breeze, I, too, renewed my own dedication in how I live my life.
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(Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at daris@darishoward.com; or visit his website athttp://www.darishoward.com)

Your Life Is No Longer Your Own (Tissues Required)

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Read an amazing account of incredible sacrifice during World War 2 involving simple towns people.

Around this time each year, Memorial Day, I am reminded of a story that I once heard. Though the exactness of it I cannot confirm, I am assured its basis is quite factual, and its message definitely deserves to be retold.

The story is of a man, Andrew, who was known all his life for selfless sacrifice and good works. He always stood in defense of the defenseless, and toiled without tiring, standing up for the downtrodden and underprivileged. As he grew old, and people tried to honor him for his well-lived life of service, he was reluctant to accept the praise and attention that his community desired to heap upon him. It was then, for the first time, that he told a story that had burned deep in his heart and was hard for him to relate.

Andrew was a young man, thirteen years old and living in Austria, when the Germans invaded. The Austrians, brave and proud, decided to fight back. In the town where Andrew lived, the men and teenage boys organized and destroyed a power plant that the Germans relied on to continue their war effort. The men and boys all knew this would cause great hardship on themselves as well, for they also relied on the power from the plant. But the thing they had not counted on was the swift and severe retribution that would come from the Nazi invaders.

The next morning, before the sun was even up, trucks rolled into town. Soon, the sound of marching soldiers was heard in the streets. The men and boys of the town, twelve years old and older, were ordered to the town square. Andrew found himself standing in a line with the other men and boys, still trying to wipe the sleep from his eyes.

The commanding officer berated them, and told them they were fools to think they could stand against the might of the German army. He told them they were nothing, and their minuscule efforts would not slow down the German war effort, but it would hurt them because a price was going to be paid for their rebellion. He then said that every 20th man in the line would be shot.

As each 20th man was pulled from the line and marched away, Andrew looked down the line and started counting. With horror, he realized that he stood in a 20th position. He trembled with fear as the soldiers moved closer and closer to him, and the shots started to ring out at the edge of town where the unfortunate men were being taken.

As the Germans continued to move down the line, Andrew could see others counting and their eyes turning to him with a look of pity and concern. Andrew found himself wanting to flee, but too frightened to move. Even if he tried to run, the soldiers on the trucks, with the mounted machine guns, would cut him down before he could get ten yards.

But then, in the instant that the last man before Andrew was pulled from the line, the Germans turned their eyes away, and Andrew felt a hand on his shoulder. The hand tightened quickly, and before he knew what had happened, he was jerked forcibly over one spot, and the old man who had been standing next to him moved swiftly to switch positions.

Andrew looked up at the silver haired man and the man smiled. Just before he was taken from the line and led away, the old man spoke quietly to Andrew. “Your life is no longer just your own. Live it for both of us.”
Andrew watched silently as the old man disappeared from view toward the edge of the village. His heart jumped as the shots sounded, shots that Andrew knew should have been his own. In that instant, tears flowing down his face, he determined he would indeed live his life for both of them. From that day he had tried to live so that the unknown old man would have felt his sacrifice was well repaid.

Each time I consider the flags flying by the many graves in the cemetery, thinking back on Andrew’s story, I realized that no one’s life belongs just to them. Each of us owes a debt to many who have paid prices through hardship, hard work, and even the sacrifice of their lives, from which we have benefited.

With the wind gently whipping the flags in the breeze, I, too, renewed my own dedication in how I live my life.
———————————–
(Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at daris@darishoward.com; or visit his website at http://www.darishoward.com)

 

A Holocaust Survivor’s Story of Forgiveness

English: Picture of Ten Boom Museum on the Bar...

English: Picture of Ten Boom Museum on the Barteljoristraat in Haarlem, the Netherlands. The house is a watch shop and museum dedicated to the memory of Corrie ten Boom and her family, who harbored war refugees during World War II. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the Second World War, Corrie Ten Boom and her family showed great courage in helping to rescue Jewish people from the Nazis. Corrie’s involvement with the Dutch underground began with her acts of kindness in giving temporary shelter to her Jewish neighbors who were being driven out of their homes. Soon the word spread, and more and more people came to her home for shelter. As quickly as she would find places for them, more would arrive. She had a false wall constructed in her bedroom behind which people could hide.

 

After a year and a half, her home developed into the center of an underground ring that reached throughout Holland. Daily, dozens of reports, appeals, and people came in and out of their watch shop. She wondered how long this much activity and the seven Jews that they were hiding would remain a secret.

 

On February 28, 1944, while Corrie was 48 years old, a man came into the shop and asked Corrie to help him. He stated that he and his wife had been hiding Jews and that she had been arrested. He needed six hundred gilders to bribe a policeman for her freedom. Corrie promised to help. She found out later that he was an informant that had worked with the Nazis from the first day of the occupation. He turned their family in to the Gestapo. Later that day, her home was raided, and Corrie and her family were arrested (their Jewish visitors made it to the secret room in time and later were able to escape to new quarters). Her father died 10 days later from a sickness.

 

They were arrested and imprisoned by the Germans. Corrie and her sister were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp, where her sister died just before the end of the war in 1945. The rest of her family was never seen again. She spent the rest of her long life spreading the news of God’s forgiveness.

Here is a story of forgiveness, that she once shared. I still think it would have been almost impossible for me to ever have done…

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~A Guidepost article from 1972 relates a short story titled “I’m Still Learning to Forgive (Corrie TenBoom) ~

“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. …

And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent. …

“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.

“I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us.” “But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, …” his hand came out, … “will you forgive me?”

And I stood there — I whose sins had every day to be forgiven — and could not. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” …

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

And so, woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

For a long moment we grasped each others’ hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”

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Have you ever been hurt by someone and angry at them? How willing have you been to forgive them? Imagine the hurt and hate that Corrie had and how hard it must have been for her to forgive this man. Let’s use this story as an example of how we can forgive others, even though it may be very difficult, and make ourselves better people because of it.