President's Address - April 2019
Is it kind ? Is it important? Does it help?
These important questions are posed by a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor Edith Egar in her best selling memoir “The Choice” which is now available in paperback.
I first heard this remarkable woman being interviewed by Catherine Ryan on National Radio and was captivated not only by horrors she endured at Auschwitz but how she dealt with her experiences and how she has used those experiences to help others. Her thesis is that “you can’t change what happened, you can’t change what you did or what was done to you. But you can choose how to live now”. Hence the title of her book.
She counsels; “Instead of blaming others, take responsibility for your own actions and speech. Before you say or do something, ask, Is it kind? Is it important? Does it help?”
If we as Vincentians were to follow this advice in our dealings with others, it may become contagious and in the words of Philip Zimbardo who wrote in the Foreword to Edith’s book that; “We are all “heroes in training” Our training is life, the daily circumstances that invite us to practice the habits of heroism: to commit daily deeds of kindness; to radiate compassion, starting with self-compassion; to bring out the best in others and ourselves; to sustain love, even in the most challenging relationships; to celebrate and exercise the power of our mental freedom”.
He points out that to be a hero requires taking effective action at crucial junctures in our lives, to make an active attempt to address injustice or create positive change in the world.
These words reflect those of Blessed Frederic Ozanam who encouraged early members of the Society.
“Yours must be a work of love, of kindness. You must give of your time, your talents, yourselves. The poor person is a unique person of God’s fashioning with unalienable right to respect. You must not be content with tiding the poor over the poverty crisis.”
“You must study their condition and injustices which brought about such poverty, with the aim of long term improvement.”
That is indeed a challenge for heroes, and it can all start by asking ourselves before we speak or act: