Century Marks

Century Marks

Note this

John Kralik's life was falling apart. He was going through a painful second divorce, his girlfriend had left him, his law firm was failing and he was growing apart from his children. One day he decided to focus not on what he didn't have but on what he did have. To express his gratitude, he wrote a handwritten thank-you note each day to someone who had shown him a kindness—a relative, a colleague, a coffee shop barista. Immediately after starting this note-
writing, positive developments began to take shape in his life. His book about his experience is 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life (USA Today, December 8).

Service begins at home

Some people wonder why Michael J. Brown would want to remain in Rochester, New York, a city marked by such poverty and joblessness that bright young people are fleeing it. Brown says he remains because Rochester has given him economic independence and he's surrounded there by familiar people who have helped to orient his life. The U.S. doesn't need a national youth service that sends young people away from home, Brown says. It needs what he calls a CIVIC (Citizens Involved in Community) program that gives young people a "chance to shape the future of their own communities." He envisions youth at work developing urban gardens, transporting people who can't drive, tutoring students and serving as election inspectors (Dissent, Fall).

Practical Christianity

When Dietrich Bonhoeffer came to study at Union Theological Seminary in New York in 1931, he was looking for "authentic Christianity," says Bon­hoeffer scholar Clifford Green. Union disappointed Bonhoeffer. After a vigorous class discussion, he reportedly asked Reinhold Niebuhr, "Is this a theological school or a school for politicians?" Bonhoeffer found the "cloud of witnesses" he was looking for in the black church, especially at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. A circle of friendships he formed with other students left an indelible mark. Jean Lasserre, a French pacifist, convinced Bonhoeffer to revise his Lutheran theology and put the Sermon on the Mount at the center. Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship was inspired by his discussions with Lasserre (Union Seminary Quarterly Review, 62:3–4).

Incredible evil

A member of the Polish underground came to the U.S. in the summer of 1943 to tell American Jewish leaders what he knew about the Holocaust in progress. After his report, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter said, "I am unable to believe you." A Polish diplomat asked whether Frankfurter was calling the informant a liar. "I did not say this young man is lying," said Frankfurter. "I said I am unable to believe him. There is a difference" (Roger Moorhouse, Berlin at War, 2010).