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Organizing your… thoughts

Whether it’s a speech you have to deliver or a much-needed conversation with a loved one, organizing your thoughts is a good first step. Some mull the thoughts over in their heads, some write them down, and others even repeat them out loud. Whatever you do, it’s the preparation that makes it easier when the time comes.

Yesterday I left Manhattan on the Staten Island Ferry. It was early morning, the air full of mist. Sitting by a window organizing my thoughts, I was preparing for a talk with students about my book “What Papa Told Me” and what it’s like to be a grandchild of Holocaust survivors. Staring across the choppy water, without warning my eyes began to tear up. In the distance Ellis Island appeared and it hit me – 62 years ago my grandparents and mother arrived there from Germany with little more than the promise of a new beginning. And there I was, living proof of their survival, about to talk about that exact journey. I don’t know if it was the juxtaposition of the two moments in time, but my emotions were adding to the swirling mix I was trying to organize into a cohesive message that I would soon deliver to an auditorium full of 100 twelve- and thirteen-year-olds.

As it happened, the students, most of whom had read my book, asked insightful questions and were genuinely interested in what I had to say. For over an hour we conversed – the students, teachers and myself – creating a noteworthy dialogue on history.

While my grandfather’s story is not an easy one, it does leave readers – in this case the students – with a sense of hope. But on that ferry ride back to Manhattan, watching the high rises grow closer, I realized that it wasn’t only the students who were left with this sense of optimism. After each one of these school talks, I too, am left with my own sense of hope; only mine comes from the eagerness and curiosity of this next generation.

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