All her “would-haves” are our opportunities!

I recently visited Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, Netherland. Walking through her hiding place and reading her diary created such a sad but inspiring emotion in me. If you don’t know Anne, I highly recommend reading her diary: Anne Frank – the diary of a young girl; more than 30 millions copies have been sold around the world. Anne is a Jewish girl. Her family went into hiding in the upper addition (the annex) next to their warehouse for two years when Hitler began to round up Jewish people to send to concentration camps. Three families of eight people were hiding in small space consisting of three tiny bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen. Her dairy not only described day-to-day feelings and activities during the hiding, but also highlighted her hope and dream of a brighter future. 

 As a thirteen years old girl living in the time of war, Anne was scared and afraid. She woke up during the middle of the nights with dream of her family being found out, her being separated from her parents, alone. “At night in bed I see myself alone in a dungeon, without Father and Mother. Or I’m roaming the streets, or the Annex is on fire, or they come in the middle of the night to take us away and I crawl under my bed in desperation. I see everything as if it were actually taking place. And to think it might all happen soon! I simply can’t imagine the world will ever be normal again for us” (November 8, 1943, Anne Frank). 

 Life in hiding was difficult. Not only they were living in cramped quarters, their activities were restricted. For example: during the day, no one can use water or toilet because the sewage pipes are shared throughout the house. So, the use of water or toilet can cause noise which can be heard from downstairs and may rouse suspicion from workers in the warehouse. For two years, they had no access to the outside; Anne wrote about her longing to go outdoor, to breathe fresh air, to see her friends, to play like a little kid, to see nature. ” ‘When will we be allowed to breathe fresh air again?’ And because I’m not allowed to do that – on the contrary, I have to hold my head up high and put a bold face on things, but the thoughts keep coming anyway. Not just once, but over and over, countless times. Believe me, if you’ve been shut up for a year and a half, it sometimes gets to be too much. But feelings can’t be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem. I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I’m free.” (December 24, 1943, Anne Frank).

Anne’s longing for nature only makes her appreciate its beauty even more. Her only connection to nature was through a small window in the attic. When she went there to look outside, she wrote: “I’m not imagining it when I say that looking up at the sky, the clouds, the moon, and the stars makes me feel calm and hopeful. It’s better medicine than either valerian or bromide; nature makes me feel humble and ready to take each blow with courage. Just my luck that except for rare occasions, I’m only able to gaze at nature through very dirty windows with dusty curtains hanging in front of them.” (June 13, 1944, Anne Frank). 

Who among us have looked at the sky, the clouds, the moon and the stars and failed to take notice of their beauty. Who among us read this passage and realize that we are very lucky to be surrounded by all the wonders in life, the wonders that are free and giving to us – the leaves, the flowers, the fresh air, the stars, the moon, the sky, to have access to them at any moment of choice, only if we slow down and notice them and give thanks to them. How often are we so lost in thoughts that we fail to live in the present moment, to notice life around us, to be present for our loved ones and appreciate all little beautiful things in life. 

Anne was sad, scared, and afraid, but she was not discouraged. She remained strong and hopeful. She hoped for a future where she and her family would be free and she would have an opportunity to make a contribution to mankind. This is her last entry in the dairy: “I know what I want, I have a goal, I have opinions, a religion and love. If only I can be myself, I’ll be satisfied. I know that I’m a woman, a woman with inner strength and a great deal of courage! If God lets me live, I’ll achieve more than mother ever did. I’ll make my voice heard, I’ll go out into the world and work for mankind.” (April 11, 1944, Anne Frank).

 —

Dear Anne,

You have achieved more than any other girl your age ever did. Your book is read by more than 30 millions people, and your voice is heard by all of us. The line to your hiding place was 2 hours long, and most of us were with teary eyes once we were inside. We feel your struggles, we feel your hope, and we feel your courage. I know I come out of your house, inspired to be a better person. I vow to myself to hug my loved ones a little tighter every day, to breathe the fresh air a little deeper, to take in the sunshine a little longer, and to look at all beauty around me with more appreciation. Most of all, I vow to do my part to make my voice heard, to contribute to mankind, and to make this world a better place. 

All your “would-haves” are my opportunities. 

Thank you Anne.

Thanh Nguyen

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