Anne Frank peers out of a dusty window. This is the closest she’ll get to the outside world for the next 2 years.
She can see in the distance bombs drop, planes crash, and smoke rise into an already gray sky…
“The guns were booming away until dawn. I still haven’t gotten over my fear of planes and shooting, and I crawl into Father’s bed nearly every night for comfort. I know it sounds childish, but wait till it happens to you! The ack-ack guns make so much noise you can’t hear your own voice. It didn’t seem nearly as bad by candlelight as it did in the dark. I was shivering, as if I had a fever, and begged Father to relight the candle. He was adamant: there was to be no light. Suddenly we heard a burst of machine-gun fire, and that’s ten times worse than antiaircraft guns! Mother jumped out of bed and, to father’s great annoyance, lit the candle. Her resolute answer to his grumbling was, “After all, Anne is not an ex-soldier!” And that was the end of that!”
The radio was her other portal to the outside world.
She was dismayed by reports of jews being gassed to death. And so despite being locked away month-after-month surrounded by death and destruction, Anne Frank was grateful,
“When I think about our lives here, I usually come to the conclusion that we live in a paradise compared to the Jews who aren’t hiding.”
And her final portal to the outside world was the most terrifying one.
Everyone in the hideout would get quite as they listened intently to someone struggling to move the bookcase concealing the main entrance door. Hearts pounding, thoughts pondering, “Is this the end? Did the Nazi’s finally find us?”
But then there would be shouts of joy as it would turn out to be one of their christian helpers bearing much needed food, supplies, and gossip.
Sometimes in hearing the gossip Anne Frank’s gratitude would be tested,
“I’m on top of the world when I think of how fortunate we are and compare myself to other Jewish children, and in the depths of despair when, for example, Mrs. Kleiman comes by and talks about Jopie’s hockey club, canoe trips, school plays and afternoon teas with friends.”
In reading her diary we are given a dusty window into her life. We see that despite her extraordinary circumstances, she struggles with many of the same problems as your typical teenage girl…
She struggles with her beauty. In one diary entry she reminisces about how all the schoolboys wanted to be her boyfriend, and then in a later entry she considers whether to title her diary, “The Musings of an Ugly Duckling”.
She struggles with her identity. She ponders whether she is just a clown meant to put on a happy face? Or if she'll ever feel safe enough to show her more sensitive side beneath the chatty exterior?
She struggles with romance. In one diary entry she barely mentions Peter, who is the son of the other family her family shares the hideout with, but after a year in hiding, her thoughts increasingly become consumed with him, going on and on about how brave, smart, handsome, and kind he is. In one entry she puts an immense amount of mental energy into whether or not the look Peter gave her that morning was an indication of whether he likes her likes her.
She struggles with her parents. She feels like her mother doesn’t truly understand her and how her “Father’s fondness for talking about farting and going to the bathroom is disgusting!”
And so in reading so many similarities between her and your modern girl it made me think about how Anne Frank might have used one of the tools of your modern girl? In other words, how would Anne Frank have used Instagram in 1943?
“We’ve received a book from the library with the challenging title, “What Do You Think of the Modern Young Girl?” The writer criticizes “today’s youth” from head to toe, though without dismissing them all as “hopeless cases”. On the contrary, she believes they have it within their power to build a bigger, better, and more beautiful world, but that they occupy themselves with superficial things, without giving a thought to true beauty.”
Based on her gratitude logic, I would therefore imagine she wouldn’t follow Jodie because it would have made her feel more depressed. Instead she would have followed other jews and frontline soldiers so she could feel better about her current lot in life.
But as the months gave way to years, Anne Frank’s instagram feed would have started to change because her gratitude philosophy started to change…
“My mother’s advice in the face of melancholy is: “Think about all the suffering in the world and be thankful you’re not part of it.” My advice is: “Go outside, to the country, enjoy the sun and all nature has to offer. Go outside and try to recapture the happiness within yourself; think of all the beauty in yourself and in everything around you and be happy.”
Therefore instead of following pictures of malnourished children, she would have increasingly followed things she loved: nature, cats, greek mythology, movie stars, and writers.
She probably would have also stalked the photos of her beloved school crush Peter and taken a few selfies at the best possible angle with just the right lighting in the hope that he might like it. She would have used Instagram to seek out the beautiful and to feel beautiful, much like your typical teenage girl.
“I don’t think Mother’s advice can be right, because what are you supposed to do if you become part of the suffering? You’d be completely lost. On the contrary, BEAUTY REMAINS, even in misfortune. If you just look for it, you will discover more and more happiness and regain your balance.”
And ultimately what breaks my heart about her story is how society didn’t allow her to be a typical teenage girl. Instead society forced her to hide and then die.
“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
How do we therefore remain grateful in such a volatile world? It’s by recognizing that the grim reaper, whether dressed as cancer, or a heart attack, or a Nazi, will inevitably come banging down our door. All of our diaries will come to an abrupt end, so we might as well seek out what’s beautiful while taking a moment to capture it with pen and picture.
I didn't send out a newsletter last week so you can stop incessantly refreshing your email. ;) It's because my Mac was running like a turtle so I upgraded its RAM and SSD, which sped this bad boy up, but erased everything in the process. Now that I'm back and running expect a letter from me every Monday at 8am EST.
Last week during one of my classes, the kids revolted. My teaching assistant was absent. I was using one of the kids books to demonstrate with (as the teachers here always do). The 6 year old wanted his book back so he could start packing up even though there was still 30 minutes left in the class! I said, "No, teacher is using it!" He reached up to grab it from me. I said, "No, sit down!" He knew what I was saying, but he chose not to listen. The other kids then got in on it. They were all reaching for the book from me. I said, "No! No!" I think they thought it was like a game, "Get the book from teacher." Anyway these are the sorts of experiences that will someday wake me up in a cold sweat as I think back to my Nam days.
The following class the kids had completely forgotten about our Battle for the Book. We went over the ABCs.