I turned on my iPad this past Saturday night, checked my email, and found among the message that had arrived since Friday afternoon, this audio clip and the following words from the friend who had shared it:
“Positive story, but I have not fact-checked.”
I was intrigued. After all, we all need positive stories, especially in contentious times, and all the more so, as we face not only contentious times but fast-spiraling infection numbers.
I was also intrigued by the disclaimer about it not being fact-checked. The sender’s need to offer that disclaimer struck me as so sadly of the moment we are in when even among friends we are impacted by the debate about what counts as a fact, and what does not.
So, being doubly intrigued, I listened to this beautiful short story — 4 minutes — being read by Marcel Sternberger, the man who lived the events described therein. I invite you to listen, and then read my even more brief response to the sender regarding facts, accuracy, and truth.
I have no idea if the story is accurate, and will do some checking if you like, but in this case, factuality is not the main thing — unless one insists that the story must be factual for it to be valuable, in which case it would be, but I am not in that camp.
Factual or not, it is a beautiful story, reminding us that we make and/or miss connections for all sorts of reasons.
For me, the linchpin of the story is not belief in God, and certainly not proof of God, as the teller clearly wants his audience to think, as nobody can know such things either way.
The linchpin is that Mr. Sternberger noticed Mr. Paskin, noticed that he was reading in Polish, and asked if he could help him, a total stranger. God or no God, we can all do that — we can all notice and engage, and that is the most powerful and hopeful thing of all.
Feel free to share my response with those who sent you the story, if only to highlight that we need not all share the sender’s belief, in order to help make miracles happen. Just a thought from this believer, who thinks that disbelief and/or non-belief should rarely if ever, divide people over our ability to see with wonder and act with compassion.
Brad Hirschfield is the co-founder and co-executive editor of The Wisdom Daily. A rabbi, Brad has been featured on ABC’s Nightline UpClose, PBS’s Frontline, Fox News and National Public Radio. He wrote a long-standing column, “For God’s Sake,” for the Washington Post, and has also written for The Huffington Post and Beliefnet.com. He authored the book, You Don?t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism. Brad also serves as President of Clal, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a leadership training institute, think tank and resource center in New York City.