is a piece of the continent, a part of the main...
Any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." ~John Donne
I have always loved this poem, but it has never rung as true for me as it did on the day I had the honor of standing above Omaha Beach in Normandy.
So many names--a sea of white crosses. Men--America's sons--who traveled across an ocean to lay down their lives for strangers in the name of freedom and righteousness. They didn't know what fate had in store for them that grey, choppy June day. But they did know that there was a whole continent being held hostage, and it was up to them to do something about it.
So they stormed the beaches. They stepped out on dangerous enemy territory with the orders to make the climb; up the embankment, to take the bunkers, to take out the enemy. Nothing was certain. Death was likely. But they were involved with mankind. And the bell was tolling....
That was almost 70 years ago, yet very little has changed. We all are asked at some point in our lives for a multitude of reasons to storm a beach. To face a fear. To walk into uncertainty. To let go of one dream and seek out the possibility of another. There are no guarantees. Fate is uncertain. But we are given that same choice: stay adrift, or storm the beach. Will we make the choice to face the enemy head on and get it over with? Will we make the climb?
The men of Normandy knew their enemy and were willing to do whatever it required to take them out, once an for all.
You need to know also that you are not an island. While an evil or misfortune may not threaten you directly, if it threatens your family, your friend, your brother, it diminishes you.
If you are storming a beach in life right now--or you are about to--you are in good company. Trust me. I stood on that beach with the spirits of those men, those Boys of Pointe du Hoc. There is peace there where they rest; the peace of those who knew they were not an island. They did not have doubts. Their mission was clear. They were the boys who saved a continent of strangers because they realized that no matter how free they were in their land, they would never truly be free until their brothers all over the world were free. They sought to make the climb, and many, in the process, ultimately laid down their lives for these strangers across the sea....these brothers.
There is no greater love than this.
Take a few moments and reflect on your Book Thief character. What beaches must he/she storm right now? What characteristics or personal qualities does he or she possess that make him/her equipped to face the challenge? If you are comfortable, you may also share a beach you had to storm in your life, either for yourself or on behalf of another. What qualities do you have that helped you make the climb over the embankment? You do not have to share a personal story by any means. Only if you wish to share. You may also share a story of someone else who stormed a beach and inspired you.
Tomorrow will mark the anniversary of a day President Roosevelt said would live in infamy. It was, literally a call to arms. A bell that tolled. I hope you will take a moment or two tomorrow to think about the brave men and women who answered the call--who fought for the freedom of others.
I am eager to hear your stories.