Southern Cayuga Conversations: Anne Frank tree gathers community

Elaine Meyers Special to The Citizen

Spring encourages us to rejoice in all things green and growing. The Southern Cayuga Anne Frank Tree Project continues to gather the community for conversations that celebrate our ability to learn and grow. As the community assembled for spring programs, I could almost hear Anne Frank’s voice: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

On March 22, the community gathered to share a meal, discuss books and view the film “Book Thief,” based on the book of the same title by Markus Zusak. Zusak was inspired by a true story his mother told him. She related watching Jews being marched down the street by Nazis when a boy offered a struggling old man a piece of bread. In response, the German soldiers took away the bread and whipped the man and the boy. Zusak saw this as the ultimate symbol of the difference between kindness and cruelty. Death narrates the story of Liesel, a girl growing up in Germany during World War II. Liesel is raised by foster parents and first steals a book from the gravediggers who bury her young brother. Books sustain Liesel for their power to preserve the truth and overcome even death in keeping stories alive. Program participants were encouraged to bring a book that they would hide from any tyrant wanting to control the truth by burning books. One young reader needed the group to vote on the proper pronunciation of “Aesop,” with either an “A” or “E” as initial sound. The vote was inconclusive, and her wise mother commented, “It really doesn’t matter how you pronounce the author’s name, you just need to read the Fables and discuss them.”

Some adults brought books that had been required reading. “Of Mice and Men” sparked a conversation by a group who vividly remembered discussing the nature of evil in English classes in the 1960s. Conversations sprang up between those whose books were by the same authors, John Steinbeck and J.K. Rowling, and by those who loved fantasy, science fiction or classics like “Crime and Punishment,” the Bible or “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

May 1, 2019