These stories reminded me of Janusz Korczak, a pedagogue, and a guardian of the homeless, neglected, and often abandoned children.
Korczak’s story is rich and compelling. It was Summer of 1942. He refused to leave the Warsaw Ghetto because of his adopted children, and met his fate in the gas chambers of Treblinka concentration camp. His forte was “ethical sensitivity” in education, and a belief that one should place physical development of a child on the same level as his or her culture of feelings and emotional life.
In his journal he wrote this little memoir about sparrows:
During the summer the windows were usually open and they would come into the room and sit on a flowerpot. If I was also sitting still, they were not afraid. But once, when I entered the room unexpectedly, a sparrow flew away and being scared off, it could not find a way out and hit the window glass. It was stunned. Maybe hurt, even. Later, before I entered my room, I would knock on the door.
But now, it’s wintertime and I have once again asked the glass-fitter to come and cut out a small [corner] piece of the window, so that sparrows could come in and eat. It would be warmer for them inside.
This little gem of a story reveals the secret of Korczak’s educational success. When from time to time he received psychologically crippled children into his new homes for orphans, he treated them the same way he would treat the sparrows. All he wanted was that the boys and girls would not be afraid anymore.Reminders. What would we do if they ceased to propel us into repairing our everydayness, helping someone by being present in their lives, perhaps just by keeping them company and simply casting the fear away.