Once there was a place that was very bleak and dreary. All the colors there were only shades of gray and brown. Nothing grew there: no grass, no flowers, no trees. And this place was surrounded by walls and fences.
People lived in this place. Every day they were forced to work digging holes, and then shoveling the dirt they’d dug out, back into those same holes. This work made them feel tired and their bodies ached. And they felt hopeless, for their work never amounted to anything.
The food they ate was just a little bread and some broth. Their bellies were never full, and they were always hungry. Plus, they got sick a lot, for this food wasn’t nutritious enough to keep them healthy.
At night, they slept, if they slept, on hard wooden beds. They had no pillows nor blankets, so they were cold and they shivered much of the night. When they did sleep, they had bad dreams, and when they woke up, they were just as tired as they’d been the night before.
One morning in this place, a girl went out. And suddenly, she saw something on the ground. Something special and precious. It was… a red raspberry!! Quickly, she picked it up and slipped it into her pocket. She kept it safe there all day, and that night, she found a leaf that had blown in from the outside. She put the leaf in her hand and placed the red raspberry on the leaf, and went to her friend, and presented it to her friend as a gift. And her friend received it.
I tell you this story, not only because it reminds us that in the most sad, hopeless, bleak and dreary places, we can – if we keep our eyes open – find miraculous surprises – treasures that are bright and sweet and delicious, like that raspberry. But more importantly, when we find these treasures, we can give them up, give them away, give them to — a friend.
This story is true. It actually happened. And I want you to remember this story. So today I brought… some raspberries. And I invite you to come take one. Take it and hold it, and when everyone who wants one has one, I’ll tell you what to do next…
Now, holding your raspberry, imagine that your world is dreary, sad, hopeless, and bleak. And imagine that your friend has just given you this raspberry. This raspberry was the one thing your friend truly owned, and she chose to make it a gift for you. And when you’ve imagined that, I invite you to enjoy your raspberry, to eat your raspberry, and to always remember.
This reflection was part of a service honoring Yom Ha’Shoah, the Jewish holiday for Holocaust Remembrance.
Prop: fresh raspberries
Credit goes to the New England Holocaust Memorial (http://www.nehm.org/) in Boston, MA, where I first encountered this quote:
“Ilse, a childhood friend of mine, once found a raspberry in the camp and carried it in her pocket all day to present to me that night on a leaf. Imagine a world in which your entire possession is one raspberry and you give it to your friend.”
Gerta Weissman Klein
Deported from Germany as a teenager, she later married the U.S. Army soldier who led the troops that rescued her from Sobibor.