Tuesday, April 03, 2012

They Have a Story to Tell

Something I was thinking about this morning was the simple idea of how we can live in a community of people without ever really knowing each other.  I live in an ordinary town in Wyoming and it is easy for me to think that we have all lived similar lives.  That notion would be so very wrong!

What brought that up this morning was an article in a Wyoming paper about a long-time local resident.  I looked at the photo of her and thought it possible that I'd seen her before, maybe passed her in an aisle of a grocery story or something.  She looks like an ordinary older woman to me.  Her story, though, is not ordinary.  Well, unfortunately it is not that uncommon, actually, but it is not an ordinary story for a Wyoming woman.

This woman, Inge Kutchins, was the youngest daughter of a Jewish widow.  They lived in Germany and she says she was about the same age as Anne Frank.  In her story Inge downplays anything she suffered as it is not comparable to those who were sent to the camps.  She doesn't seem to think of herself as a Holocaust Survivor, at least not in the way of others who were still in Germany during the worst of it.  However, she was sent from her family at age 8.  She was first sent to Switzerland to live with a Catholic family that was harboring Jews.  Later she was sent to the U.S. to live with a Methodist foster family.  She was just growing back her hair after having it shorn for de-lousing, she couldn't speak English and she arrived just in time to celebrate Easter, a holiday totally foreign to her.  She was just a little girl!

As I read the article I was amazed that she wanted to focus her story on those who helped her.  She didn't seem to want to discuss any cruelties she'd experienced, but rather wanted to discuss her gratitude toward all those who made her story have a different ending than so many other German Jewish children her age.  You see what I mean?  This is not an ordinary Wyoming life story.

I also came to know a little Japanese lady who ended up living out her life in Wyoming.  She had quite a story herself.  She told me of being in Hiroshima as a child the day the bomb was dropped!  Can you imagine?  She was pretty little but couldn't forget the fear.  She said her family had nowhere to go.  Ironically, she eventually married an American soldier.  Who would have thought a Hiroshima bomb survivor was living her life, raising her children, in small town Wyoming?

When living in Montana I once met the father of one of my friends when he was visiting.  He was a nice guy, an artist, but I am sorry to admit I didn't spend any time trying to learn about his life.  Later, I did get to know him more, but not personally.  I learned of a book that told his story.  That book,  Tears in the Darkness by Michael and Elizabeth M. Norman, is an eye-opener.

This gentle, elderly man named Ben Steele, lived through that Bataan Death March.  Although I'd heard of that, I'd never studied the horrors of it.  What he lived through is pretty much unfathomable to me.  He had a story to tell that I never even imagined.

So, you are wondering, what is the point of this post?  I don't know.  I wasn't planning this post at all.  I guess I just think I need to pay more attention to individuals.  It is so easy to overlook people.  Have any of you been surprised when you learned a story behind a person's life?


Michelle said...

It seems like the people with the most dramatic stories don't really want to talk about them. Maybe that is how they cope. We had an uncle whose ship was sunk by the Japanese and he spent some time in the water before rescue. Another uncle in the army fought in the Pacific islands. Another uncle was in the Seabees. Daddy was in the Philipines, but after the big fighting was done. I expect there were still pockets of snipers. None of these guys sat around swapping war stories. I wish now I had had sense enough to ask questions. But I knew them as they were when I was growing up. I didn't see the warriors who had lived through hazardous times. Now I regret the lost stories, but suspect I am just as oblivious as I was then.

Maria Rose said...

On the other side of the coin I am really interested in people who do lead what we consider average lives---seems almost more bizarre to have a life that doesn't hold some kind of hidden tragedy, loss or heartbreak.

Susan Struck said...

That's true, Maria, most people have a story of some sort of loss. Also, it is fun to learn about the above-average happy tales as well. I didn't really talk about those but maybe another post...

Susan Struck said...

Yes, Michelle, I also wish I'd asked more questions. However, I think they would not have answered much. I believe that generation had sense enough to try to protect their young from knowledge of scary things. I guess I'm rather grateful for that.

Petra said...

You've got a very thought-provoking point here. Another blogger noticed that people spend more time interacting with 5" screens than with the people next to them. It has become so tempting/easy to hide away in a virtual online world that we forget the real world right around us... Real people just down the street whom we haven't had a conversation with, ever, or in eons. Thank you for this. It made me think!

Featured Post

My Life as a Travel Agent

On a recent morning I was at work and as one of my patients was waiting for his death, I thought again about an idea that keeps popping int...