- Testimony from the person who experienced the event
- Authentic site where it happened
- Historical context
I wonder how this model could be used in different contexts? Are there other communities in the world that would benefit from this approach? In the case of Germany, as described in my recent TEDx talk, service and reflection are also aspects of this model.
The obvious learning outcome for young participants was the history – dates, significant events, geography, even language. But we learned more than that. Survivors often shared important life lessons, such as the responsibility to participate actively in our democratic societies – healthy democracies require nourishment from engaged citizens. Of course, there were deep conversations about human rights, hate, racism and tolerance. But we also discussed resource distribution, gender, identity, religion, politics, economics, relationships and education. Topics were endless and relevant, both to the present and future.
Personally, I learned to listen, question and speak out. These are the skills I developed from these unique intergenerational relationships – deep listening and questioning, plus beginning to understand what could happen if I do not voice my opinions. Perhaps that was also part of what we learned...how to develop our own voices.
Young participants also contributed to the survivors and eyewitnesses. We had time, energy and intrinsic motivation to understand what had happened during the Nazi period. We documented history through projects, research and interviews. They knew that we would carry their stories and memories. Some expressed how sharing their experiences helped them to process and let go. Sometimes we witnessed a moment of reconciliation and healing between a German young person, for example, and a Jewish survivor.
Getting to know the survivors certainly changed how I viewed seniors (elders, maybe is a better word) in my own family, community and the world. I now see older people as treasure chests of experience and wisdom.
- What insights do they have that I don't?
- What would they want to share with me if the conditions were right?
- What can I offer them to make their lives more wonderful?