Kindness not forgotten!
When I was a student in Kiel, Germany, I had the funniest law professor. He was old, eccentric, a retired judge who smoked like a chimney even though it wasn’t allowed and he was an excellent storyteller. I was the only US citizen studying Social Work in Northern Germany, so I was well known. A bit of an oddity.
This particular Professor found out relatively soon that he had an American in his class. One day he stopped his class, walked over to me, asked me to stand and shook my hand. Then he thanked me in front of all the students. I was baffled.
He proceeded to tell the class a story about his childhood. The class was in total silence, following every word, as he told the story of his feelings as a child at the end of WWll.
He spoke about his fear of the allies. The Germans in his village asked themselves, as the tanks rolled in at the end of the war, what would happen to them. Would they be raped? Would they be abused, pushed around or insulted?
The tanks did move through his town. A big line of tanks, kicking up the dirt along the way. On this particular day, a tank opened just in front of him, and a large black man popped out with a huge smile. The soldier got down on one knee smiled, handed my professor chewing gum and his Dad a pack of cigarettes. He said the man patted his head and smiled. It was the first black man he had ever seen, and all of the sudden he was no longer scared. Then my professor thanked me for being from a kind nation, a nation that fought for justice, for the liberation of Europe and the kindness we showed to his country after WWII.
Over the past 27 years, I have not always had this kind of treatment as an American abroad. During the George W. Bush era, my life was harder and when Obama was elected people were euphoric. This morning my friends have been asking me how I am. I am sad! I was sad to hear people chanting “Lock her up!” as I waited for the results. I was sad that the people have voted for someone who has shown so much disrespect. I liked being a citizen of a kind and great nation, a nation that fought for others rights; they didn't build walls and push them out.
I hope the kindness that this Professor of mine felt will never be lost. I hope I am wrong about the harsh rhetoric I feel rising and the fear that human rights are on the line. I hope that this attitude of intolerance will not prevail. When my professor told his touching story and thanked me in front of the room, I had tears in my eyes and so did he. I was proud to be American. Today I am not as proud as I would like to be and my tears are tears of sadness for the loss of kindness that I see in some of my fellow citizens.
I will forever be grateful to Professor Doctor Ritter. He taught me more than law.
— Allison Ochs