I first went to Germany 20 years ago because I wanted to get rid of the anger that I felt for all Germans that bordered on frank hatred. It was part of the legacy I carried as the firstborn son of Holocaust survivors.
It was only after I came to Indian Country that I learned what it was like to be on the receiving end of similar racist judgments, and I decided to re-examine my own. You can’t walk around with that much anger and still be able to call yourself a healer.
On my first trip to Germany, I began to feel at least comfortable with the familiarity of things: the language, smells and tastes, even the thin-lipped coffee cups. But I was never far away from a thinly-veiled suspicion — that if I waited long enough, I would catch somebody making an anti-Semitic slur. Sure enough, one afternoon as I watched and listened to a juggler performing in front of dozens of people, I heard him make such a remark.
I’ve told this story often and also written it, because this experience forced me to re-examine my old certainties. This young German juggler was responsible for helping me heal myself. Because of that experience I have come back to teach colleagues in Germany and each time I have come, it has helped me get rid of more preconceptions.
A couple of years ago, I conducted a three-day workshop in Germany entitled, “The Science and Spirit of Healing.” One of the participants, Brigitta, a psychologist (far left in photo), came up and said she thought she knew that juggler I spoke about. She asked if I was interested in finding him, and I said I would love to. A year later she found the juggler, and in our subsequent discussions confirmed his identity (see Schlagbyte, Feb. 13, 2006).
The sad news was the juggler, Holger “Ernst” Riekers, had died two years earlier from stomach cancer at the age of 40. His widow, Ann, was raising their two daughters, ages 6 and 3. Brigitta said Ann and the girls would like to meet me the next time I came to Germany.
At the end of my recent speaking tour in Germany, I met with Anne and her two beautiful daughters. Anne said that Holger was her soulmate; they had known each other since she was 16 and felt they were two bodies with one heart. Anne is now 39, an artist raising Amalia, a smiling 6-year-old who developed alopecia shortly after her father’s death and whose hair is now growing back in patches; and Cecilia, a lively 3-year-old who was born three weeks before her father’s death. Anne said raising the girls alone was hard, but losing a piece of her heart was unbearable.
I told Anne that Holger changed my life. He helped me get rid of my old preconceptions and let go of my anger. Because of him I came to see another face of Germany;, I have come back to Germany again and again, and the healing he began in me continues. I told her my World Cup experience (see last week’s Schlagbyte) about dancing with the young German who was about Holger’s age when I met him. When the young man asked me to dance, I felt Holger’s healing blessing on me again.
Anne asked me to say something to the children about their father, and my command of the language was perfect for their age. I told them their father once saved my life. That I once was an angry man with bitterness in my heart, even at their father. But he loved me anyway and showed me how to give up my pain and sadness. I hugged their father and thanked him, and I was going to hug them too and leave them with a piece of my heart like their Daddy left me his. I gave them each a little teddy bear clutching a heart and a copy of my children’s book, The Go-Away Doll which I inscribed: I love you . . . everything you love goes away someday, but it always comes back to love you in another way.
We see escalating violence daily, fight against it by loving somebody wholeheartedly today.