It’s not everyday you get the chance to meet history, but last week at The Moth Mainstage in Boston, I shared a stage with Rick Carrier, a 90-year-old WWII veteran. Selected to close the show, he stood at the microphone in his uniform, now decorated with endless medals, and started to tell his story.
His orders were to go on a solo mission to Weimar, Germany and find supplies abandoned by the fleeing Germans. It was his 20th birthday. He drove 10 miles alone in the morning darkness, at great risk of being shot by German snipers, who still dotted the countryside. Once at Weimar, he asked the town priest and a young woman once employed by the Germans if they knew where the supplies were kept. They said yes, and told him they would take him to where the supplies were stored. As they traveled along a dirt road deep into the woods, he had no idea where they were going or what they would find. They found Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp, at this point unknown to the Allied Forces. Americans liberated the camp the next day.
Among those liberated were 560 orphans. Two years ago — nearly 70 years later — Rick received a phone call from one of the orphans, who thanked him for saving his life.
Needless to say, Rick got a standing ovation.
Now, we probably won’t all have the opportunity to change the course of history or save someone’s life, let alone 560 orphans. And while no military commander gives me orders that I must follow and that place me in certain danger, I’ll admit I regularly receive internal marching orders, inner urgings that direct me to confront a difficult situation or take a risk — steps that usually take me outside my comfort zone and make me feel vulnerable and insecure. But I ignore those orders at my peril. Who knows what I might discover or who I might liberate — known or unknown to me?
I’ll take my cue from Rick, and hopefully summon the discipline and courage I need to do what’s asked of me — and maybe, just maybe, make a difference.
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