This is an exerpt from a post I wrote on December 11, 2013 on my original blog www.ifyoucouldseewhatihear.wordpress.com. With everything going on in the world today, today specifically, I thought it was appropriate to re-post. Let us think about those less fortunate than us today, in all parts of the world, who just wish they were home.
This past weekend, I read a book that really made me stop and pause, and think about just how lucky I am to be warm inside, with my family around me. How Lucky I AM – period. That book is A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal.
This morning I was outside doing some work in the back yard, filling up holes that had been dug by dogs…and it reminded me of the time I spent working as a merchandiser at Lowe’s in the garden department. I love gardens and plants. I love talking to people about gardening. So I thought this would be a great job for me – active, outdoors, and since I started in January it would be brisk and keep me moving. Yea, the day I started we had a cold snap and it froze. Unloading and moving wet heavy plants around when it’s freezing, not cool. This morning reminded me of that time and how miserable it was. But that’s nothing, LITERALLY NOTHING. Not even a drop in the bucket. I’ve got nothing on little Tommy Buergenthal – the child – yes, CHILD – that survived Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. He survived the Auschwitz Death March. And when I say child I mean CHILD, he was liberated from Sachsenhausen at the age of 11.
This past week whenever outside dressed in many layers – long-sleeved t-shirt, heavy jeans, sweater, scarf, heavy coat, and still freezing – even just walking from the car to the grocery store – I have thought about Tommy. Who walked the Auschwitz Death March while starving, in what equated to nothing more than thin pajamas, boots too big and no socks, with rags wrapped around his feet.. And I think, could I have done it? This child who by what he describes as “luck” – his mother was told by a clairvoyant that he was “Ein Glückskind” – a Lucky Child. She knew that her son would make it through the war – never doubting it. Miraculously, he did make it, in that time relying solely on luck, the kindness of others, his own instincts and a desire to live – which was tested daily, with death all around – the story is amazing. A true testament to the human spirit. I read it in one day. And his story doesn’t stop with the liberation, it goes on to tell what he has done since and continues to do in his current life. Yes, Thomas Buergenthal is still alive, and has done, and continues to do phenomenal things for his fellow man, some of which include being a professor of International Law and Human Rights, and serving for more than a decade as the American judge on the International Court of Justice in The Hague. (One note: as of the re-posting of this, Thomas Buergenthal is indeed, still alive.)
So having read his story, a child faced with so much injustice, living in a place of horror and despair, and having done so much with the life he was given, I’ve been asking myself, what can I do? We do what we can with what we’ve got, and we’ve all been given so much in comparison…how can I reach my potential, and not squander my gifts, but use them to help others and show them their own gifts in turn? There are people all around us every day that can help us, elevate us, show us the direction to go, or stand up for us when we need the help. The connections are there, if we can see them, make them and maintain them, and when there’s nothing else, there’s always, by the grace of God, Luck.
Addition to original post: Thomas B. currently sits on the International Court of Justice. Here is what he is up to nowadays, and here is a rundown of some of his accomplishments. To learn more about the International Court of Justice visit: http://www.icj-cij.org/court/?p1=1&p2=2&p3=1&judge=11
Judge Thomas Buergenthal
(Member of the Court since 2 March 2000; re-elected as from 6 February 2006)
Born in Lubochna, Slovakia (US National), on 11 May 1934.
B.A., Bethany College, West Virginia (1957); Juris Doctor, New York University School of Law (Root Tilden Scholar) (1960); Master of Laws, Harvard Law School (1961); Doctor of Juridical Science, Harvard Law School (1968). Honorary Doctorates: Bethany College (1981), University of Heidelberg (1986), Free University of Brussels (1994), State University of New York (Buffalo) (2000), American University Washington College of Law (2002), University of Minnesota (2003), George Washington University Law School (2004), University of Göttingen (2007), New York University (2008), and St. Edwards University (2009).
Member of the Bars of the State of New York, District of Columbia, and United States Supreme Court.
Professor of Law, State University of New York (Buffalo) School of Law (1962-1975); Fulbright and Jaworski Professor of International Law, University of Texas School of Law (1975-1980); Dean and Professor of International Law, American University Washington College of Law (1980-1985); I. T. Cohen Professor of Human Rights, Emory University School of Law and Director, Human Rights Program of the Carter Center (1985-1989); Lobingier Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence and Presiding Director, International Rule of Law Center, The George Washington University Law School (1989-2000).
Judge and President, Inter-American Court of Human Rights (1979-1991); Judge and President, Administrative Tribunal, Inter-American Development Bank (1989-1994); Member, United Nations Truth Commission for El Salvador (1992-1993); Member, United Nations Human Rights Committee (1995-1999); Member, Panels of Conciliators and of Arbitrators, International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, World Bank (since 1997); Arbitrator (1997-2000) and Vice-Chairman, (1999-2000), Claims Resolution Tribunal for Dormant Accounts in Switzerland; Member, Ethics Commission, International Olympic Committee (since 2005).
Chairman, United States Government Delegation to Unesco Specialized Conference on International Education (1974); Chairman, Human Rights Committee, United States National Commission for Unesco (1976-1979); Chief United States Representative, Unesco Executive Board Working Group on Human Rights Procedures (1977/1978); Member, Advisory Board, Presidents Commission on the Holocaust (1978-1979); Vice-President, Unesco Congress on the Teaching of Human Rights and Chairman, United States Delegation to the Congress (Vienna, 1978); Member, United States Government Delegation, Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, Copenhagen (1990); Member, United States Government Delegation, Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, Expert Meeting on Democratic Institutions, Oslo (1991); Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council (1996-2000) and Chairman of its Committee on Conscience (1997-2000).
Rapporteur, Study Panel on International Human Rights Law and its Implementation, American Society of International Law (1970-1975); Member, Board of Directors, International Institute of Human Rights (René Cassin Foundation), Strasbourg, France (1970-1989); American Society of International Law, Member, Executive Council, (1977-1980; 1986-1989); Vice-President, (1980-1982); Honorary Vice-President (1994-1999); Honorary President (2001-2009); Associate Reporter (1978-1980), Member, Advisory Committee (1980-1986), American Law Institute, Restatement (Third) on the Foreign Relations Law of the United States; Chairman, Human Rights Committee, International Law and Practice Section, American Bar Association (1981-1982; 1991-1992); Member, Standing Committee on World Order Under Law, American Bar Association (1997-1999); Member, Administrative Council, Blaustein Institute of Human Rights (1996-2000); Member, Kuratorium, Max Planck Institute for Public International Law, Heidelberg, Germany (1984-2002); Founder and President, Inter-American Institute of Human Rights (1980-1992), Honorary President (since 1992); Vice-Chairman, Academic Council, Institute of Transnational Arbitration (1998-2003), Honorary Chairman (since 2004); Member, Executive Committee, American Bar Association Center for Human Rights (since 2003).
Member, American Bar Association, American Society of International Law, American Law Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, German Society of International Law. Associé, Institut de Droit International.
Pro-Humanitas Prize, West-Ost Kulturwerk (Federal Republic of Germany) (1978); Unesco Human Rights Prize (First Honourable Mention) (1978); Book Award (First Prize) of the Inter-American Bar Association for Protecting Human Rights in the Americas: Selected Problems (1982); Distinguished Service in Legal Education Award (1987), Alumni Achievement Award (2005), New York University Law School Association; Wolfgang G. Friedmann Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in International Law, Columbia University Law School (1989); Harry Leroy Jones Award for Outstanding Achievements in Foreign and International Law, Washington Foreign Law Society (1990); Human Rights Prize, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (1997); Goler T. Butcher Medal for Excellence in Human Rights, American Society of International Law (1997); Manley O. Hudson Medal, American Society of International Law (2002); Louis B. Sohn Award, International Law Section of the American Bar Association (2006); International Humanitarian Award for Advancing Global Justice, Case Western Reserve University Law School (2006); Gruber Prize for International Justice (2008).
Member, Editorial Boards: American Journal of Comparative Law (1966-1977); American Journal of International Law; Human Rights Law Journal; Europäische Grundrechte Zeitschrift; Revue Universelle des Droits de lHomme, Encyclopedia of Public International Law (R. Bernhardt, ed.); Anuario Mexicano de Derecho Internacional; and International Affairs (2008).
Author of numerous books, essays and articles. Books include, inter alia: Law-Making in the International Civil Aviation Organization, 1969; International Protection of Human Rights (with L. B. Sohn), 1973; Public International Law (with S. Murphy), 4th ed., 2007; International Human Rights (with D. Shelton and D. Stewart), 3rd ed., 2002; Protecting Human Rights in the Americas (with D. Shelton), 4th ed., 1995; Grundzüge des Völkerrechts (with Kokott and Doehring), 3rd ed., 2003; A Lucky Child (2007; 2009).