For this month, instead of forcing a political discussion, instead of “ELECT’ we’re writing on “SELECT.’ We all make choices every day, and often we’re completely unaware of the far-reaching (or even immediate) consequences.
When I asked Simone why she had acted to save the children at such great risk to herself, she shrugged in her European manner, and said, “Someone had to do it.” She appeared fatigued with the question although kind in allowing me an opportunity to ask it. Earlier in the week at dinner, in the elegant dining room of her care facility, she had been chattily introduced to me as a French heroine. Again, kindly, she said to her Christian interlocutors, “These are not matters to discuss over dinner.”
Women of advanced age do not all look the same. Simone herself was quite beautiful. Her skin was pale white, her hair white, her eyes blue. The overall visual impression was of a woman of good health and intellect.
Too polite or too hesitant to delve beneath the answer she had given me and unable to find a ready answer in my cursory research on the Jewish Resistance, I began to ask these questions of my hypothetical 19 year old self. Am I responsible for the children in my care when I am only a few years older than they? If I am not responsible for them than who is? If the parents of these children cannot bear to be separated from their own flesh and blood but I know the children will surely die, how can I summon the strength to wrench these children from loving parents who cling to them?
Of course I could not answer these questions.
(These children were hidden in the homes of French families, their birth names and parents’ names carefully concealed in the lining of Simone’s coat, so that at the end of the war, hopefully, families could be reunited.)
The concept of choice may not be a suitable framework for understanding why someone brave acts bravely. Most of us would wish we could. In times of peace we assume that we can select our course of action. Perhaps choice is a mystery.
I will never know more than I do now about how a young French girl was able to save so many children. I am honored to have met Simone. I think of her at times when my hope is shaken.
A Select Number
Will reap the benefits of this country,
Will represent the interests of all,
Will be disparaged and banished,
Will embrace rampant intolerance,
Or inclusion, and
Select? Choose? How do we make choices? Why do we select what we do? What goes into the selection? What is behind it? My guess is that the answers to those questions change over time as we ourselves move from our teenage years through our time as mature adults and finally into our time as seniors.
The problem is we often have to live with choice we made in our twenties that don’t fit us comfortably in our forties. Selections have consequences.
And so we select or choose again as life’s circumstances shift. Those of us who are able to change our minds as circumstances shift, who are flexible, seem to float more smoothly through life’s challenges. Perhaps these lucky ones have found the secret to happiness.
When I was at a serious, life-changing choice point in my life, whenever I selected a Tarot
card, I often picked the Two of Swords. In the deck I used, a “blindfolded woman is seated
at the water’s edge, holding two swords in perfect balance. The blindfold indicates that she
cannot see her way through her present situation, so she steadfastly ignores the sea of her
emotions and the jagged rocks of hard facts behind her.”* That was surely the way I felt, so
terrified of whatever decision I might make, I could do nothing at all.
Once I made my choice, I never selected the Two of Swords again for a Tarot spread.
* The Complete Book of Tarot, Julie Sharman-Burke