The following is a story that a friend of mine wrote after visiting the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. I met Frank while preparing for a missions trip to Ecuador that we both attended. He and his wife Daryl are such wonderful people, I'm privileged to know them and call them my friends.
Frank is something of a legend with this group of children in the mountains of Ecuador. They adore him to pieces.
My Mom passed this story along to me after we booked our tickets to the city and began talking about what to do there. It is a beautiful story and one that I think is worth a share. I hope you all have a wonderful Monday, see you tomorrow with some Paris.
I was born in The Netherlands from the seed of a chestnut tree, a seed scattered by the wind.
As my roots began to push into the soil I found that I was becoming a seedling, sprouting up in an unassuming location behind an old house squeezed among other dwellings along a canal in Amsterdam.
I quickly grew and by the beginning of the 20th century I had spread my branches over much of the courtyard to which I was confined.
What set me apart from the multitude of other trees in the area was my location. History records the occupation of The Netherlands by Germans in the early 1940’s. The Jews living in Europe became the object of Nazi hatred forcing many of them into hiding. As I continued to grow my branches cast their shadows on the annex of number 263 Prinsengracht. This address became the sanctuary of a Jewish family hoping to escape the clutches of their German tormentors.
It was summer time in 1942. I was in full greenery. My branches were the home to birds and squirrels. From time to time I noticed a young girl with dark eyes and even darker hair who would come to the attic window of the annex and stare out at me.
As the weeks grew into months and my appearance changed with the seasons, I anxiously waited for her daily visits. It was exciting to provide my young admirer with a variety of colors.
Sometimes she would sit at the other window in the attic and look upon the Westertoren, the bell tower of the church in the next block. I began to realize that the Westertoren and I were her only connection with the outside world. I did my best to comfort her. I shimmered with dewdrops that stuck to my branches in the early spring. As the summer season approached I provided blossoms and budding leaves and birds building nests and raising their young. In the fall I displayed my autumn finery. As the year drew to a close she gazed out at delicate snowflakes that made up my winter costume.
I noticed, though my friend was growing taller, she was also growing thinner with each passing season. I watched her shivering as she sat by the window during the long cold season. I so wanted to reach out to her, to comfort her, to invite her to climb among my branches and absorb the smells of nature.
Also, in the summer of 1942, I noticed another face at the window, that of a teenage boy. Now I had two admirers and I felt the urgency to provide comfort and hope to these young prisoners of circumstances beyond their control. They needed comfort and hope that should have been part of their adolescent growth, to live freely without fear and violence.
As 1943 was ushered in I grew tense. Allied bombers flew overhead on their way to Germany. I hoped they wouldn’t drop their containers of destruction on my friends and me. The noise of German anti aircraft fire caused my branches to quiver with fright. When would the unceasing urge to destroy ever stop?
As the months turned into years I became alarmed. Would my young friends be able to overcome the terrible hardships they were forced to endure? I began to feel guilty in my own freedom.
Suddenly all was quiet. Where were my admirers? Why didn’t they come to the window? Something was wrong! It was August 4, 1944. I waited anxiously, not wanting to face what I suspected to be true.
I never saw my friends again. History records what happened to them and the world mourns.
Myself? I’m doing fine, at least on the outside. I continue to grow in size though my attitude is quite somber. I still shelter the annex.
263 Prinsengracht is now a museum that is visited by over 600,000 people every year. I feel sad as the public passes by the window where my young friends used to sit and gaze upon my branches. Once in a while some pause as they pass the window.
Not long ago I saw the astonished face of a man peering out at me. Then he was gone only to reappear with his wife. He pointed excitedly and his wife seemed to be caught up in his enthusiasm.
I was glad, because I provide the only living link between the lives of those young victims of tyranny and persecution and the curious throngs of future generations.
If I could talk to them I would tell them of the confusion, the misery, and the death of a beautiful young girl, her family and friends. A young girl that I overheard saying, “I still believe that people are really good at heart … I can feel the suffering of millions and, yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think it will come out right.”
I earnestly desire, as my branches begin to age, that I will be able to scatter seeds. Hopefully, a new chestnut tree will sprout up that will be able to record, for history, peace, happiness and love among the nations of this world.