Henry & Stefa – True Courage & Honor

In 1907 Stefania-WilczynskaStefa was a university graduate who was volunteering at the local orphanage.

She was indispensable, organized and loving. Warmth and strength were her defining characteristics.

Janusz-KorczakHenry was a beloved pediatrician, he was prosperous and secure. He wrote children’s fiction on the side.

However, the children on the street had his heart. His pockets were full of candy and coins which he gave out liberally with love. His heart told him he should start an orphanage.

“The road I have chosen toward my goal is neither the shortest, nor the most convenient. But it is the best for me—because it is my own. I found it not without effort or pain,” said Henry of his choice for change.

When Henry met Stefa, he saw her competence and caring, the children rushing to her for hugs and kisses. Here was the woman to help him do this great work.

“They made an effective team. Stefa with her ability to bring order, and he with his natural way with children.”

Together, for over 30 years, Henry and Stefa cared for hundreds of children.

Janusz-Korczak-with-the-childrenVisitors abounded and students begged to intern at the world renowned orphanage.

Then Germany invaded Poland. Stefa was awarded one of the last visas to leave. She turned it down saying, “I cannot leave without the children.”

Then the Germans forced all Jews to move: 400,000 people to a 3.5 square mile area surrounded by barbed wire and patrols, the “Warsaw Ghetto.”

For two years Henry and Stefa brought order to a corner of chaos. They kept their routines: work, study and even put on a play.

Then, without warning on August 7, 1942 the call “All Jews out!” came ringing through the doors. “You have fifteen minutes!”

Stefa helped the children pack. They were being “resettled” in the east.

Henry, carrying one child and holding another’s hand, calmly took the lead and Stefa brought up the rear. One hundred and ninety-two orphans and ten adults.

They sang as they marched, “Though the storm howls around us, let us keep our heads high.”

The stories of Anne Frank, Victor Frankl, and Corrie Ten Boom move us.

 Like Anne Frank, Henry left behind a diary.

Like Viktor Frankl, Henry was a respected doctor and Jew.

Like Corrie Ten Boom, Henry had dedicated his life to serving others.

Unlike them all, Henry had a choice to walk away.

At the train station a German guard handed the famous Jewish author and doctor a note offering him his freedom, he waved it away. Henry said,

“You do not leave a sick child in the night, and you do not leave children at a time like this.”

No one knew their true destination was Treblinka, an extermination camp.

Henry and Stefa, had they known, would they have made different decisions?

A teacher who worked with them said:

“You know, everyone makes so much of his last decision to go with the children to the train. But his whole life was made up of moral decisions. The decision to become a children’s doctor. The decision to give up medicine and his writing career to take care of poor orphans. The decision to go with the Jewish orphans into the ghetto. As for that last decision to go with the children to Treblinka, it was part of his nature. It was who he was. He wouldn’t understand why we are making so much of it today.”

Warsaw-Monument-Janusz-KorczakHenry is better known by his Polish pen name: Janusz Korczak. Stefa, is only found on the pages of Henry’s biographies.

But they left behind them a legacy of love, determination, commitment and honor.  They are heroes to know, to love & to emulate.

(The King of Children-The Life and Death of Janusz Korczak by Betty Jean Lifton is a must read if you want the whole story)


Santa, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter and You

To my boys,

Last night we watched the movie, “The Santa Clause 2.”  In it Santa, Tim Allen, must convince a lady to marry him within 28 days or lose forever the power to be Santa Claus.  He uses up the last of his magic trying help her believe in him and win her heart.

Of course, the tale ends happily with her decision to believe in him. She says “I Will” to his proposal to spend the rest of time with him even though they have only known each other for a few weeks.

Why did she do that? Because she believed in him and the powers GIVEN to him.

What made him worth the risk was his CHOICES to use those gifts for good.

Lately, some of you have read the Percy Jackson series. Percy was given gifts.  He hadn’t done anything to earn or deserve them.  He was born with them.  He made the choice to submit to training and develop these gifts.  Then he CHOSE to use them, not for his own good and desires,  but for others.

Same story, just a little different twist.

Guess what! This is your story as well.  You were given gifts.  You did not earn them.  You were given powers.  Your choices to develop and use them will determine whether you become a force for good, to become a true hero. 

You have been chosen, just like Harry Potter.  Chosen before you were born.  You were marked to do a certain work.  There will be people whose LIVES will depend on you choosing to stand up and use your powers to bless and help them.

You are son of God.  You have been given special gifts and powers.  In fact, you have been given EXACTLY what you need to be the hero in the lives for whom you are responsible.   

Harry, Percy & Santa have some very important things in common.

  • They listened to and followed (though grudgingly on occasion) the advice of older wiser mentors [Santa —the elves, Percy —Chiron , Harry Potter —Dumbledore]
  • They were not afraid of and REQUESTED and ACCEPTED help from others…be it total strangers or good friends [Santa —the elves, his son, Percy —fellow demigods and helpful humans, Harry Potter —Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ghosts and more]
  • They chose to help others rather than seeking their own individual interests, comfort and security, and in this they found (often to their own surprise) great happiness and fulfillment.

There will be times when you will doubt and when you will fear.

Don’t exercise doubts (thinking about them over and over in your mind). Instead exercise faith: faith in the GIVER of your gifts and His belief in you.

There will be times when you want to give up. When you think you are not worthy. When you want to just go to bed and forget your gifts and the call to be a hero.

When this happens, look into the eyes of those who believe in you and depend upon you.

Look long and hard.

This is what life is all about.

You must make the choice to believe in their belief. Make the choice to put them first.

Something amazing happens once you choose to ACT on their belief, to ACT on the counsel of mentors, to ACT and invite others to help you.  Things start falling into place.  You will know what skill you need to develop next, you will get help from unforeseen places and people. 

You have been blessed by God with what you need to succeed…because HE WANTS YOU TO SUCCEED!  He isn’t like those greek gods of legend that have only their own selfish ends in mind and who occasionally decide to be nice to the mortals.

He has chosen to put each of us and our immortality and eternal life as His supreme goal and focus.

Yes, you need to be the hero. 

You already have been given the power.

You have already been given mentors to help you. 

You have already been surrounded by friends and family to support you. 

All that is left is for you to make the choice.

The choice to develop your power.

The choice to seek out and follow mentors.

The choice to accept and ask for the help of friends, family and others.

Will you?

Will you make the choice to serve,

               the choice to give,

                        the choice to be?