After almost every catastrophe -- whether it's caused by humans or by nature -- some people affected are likely to say that such things happen to others and that they never imagined it happening to them.
And it was certainly among the reactions of Mindy Corporon and her extended family when a neo-Nazi seeking to kill Jews murdered her Christian son and father as well as another Christian person in April 2014 in suburban Kansas City.
Now a member of that extended family, Yvette Manessis Corporon, has written a new book that describes what Mindy and her family went through -- but sets that story in the context of another family story about how Yvette's grandmother and others on the tiny Greek island of Erikousa helped to save a Jewish family from death in the Holocaust in World War II.
Something Beautiful Happened: A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil started out to recount Yvette's search for anyone alive today because of what her grandmother and others on Erikousa did to save a Jewish tailor and his family. But as she was deep into the often-frustrating research she learned that Mindy's son, Reat Underwood, and her father, Bill Corporon, had been murdered at the Jewish Community Center and that Terri LaManno had been shot to death by the same thug at a nearby Jewish facility.
So the book moves back and forth between the story of the family of Savvas Israel, the tailor, and the story of how Mindy, with support from her husband Len and son Lukas, her mother, Melinda Corporon, and Jim LaManno, Terri's husband, created the SevenDays movement of love and engagement in response to the death of Reat and Bill.
The irony that both stories involved a connection with Jews helps hold those two stories together.
Since the 2014 shootings, I've gotten to know Mindy and her family and, like anyone who meets them, I continue to be impressed by how they have carried their grief but, at the same time, turned it into what Yvette rightly calls something beautiful.
And although I was familiar with much of the story of the death of Reat and Bill, Yvette's account adds detail and nuance that perhaps only a member of the Corporon family could offer.
I, of course, knew nothing about the Erikousa story, though because I've co-authored a book about rescuers of Jews in the Holocaust (They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust), I was aware of the risk of death that any rescuer faced by helping Jews survive.
But the details about how the people of Erikousa rescued a Jewish family by a group effort are, of course, unique and compelling. And the story of how Yvette and others finally turned up living relatives of the tailor and his family makes for page-turning reading.
Could these two stories have been two books? Yes. And maybe some book editor somewhere would argue for that. But I'm glad to have both stories in one book and to see how together they reinforce the message that despite the obvious evil in the world, good and love and mercy and compassion also can change the world.
That triumphant message stands in stark contrast to the reality that the Nazis were so determined to wipe out all the Jews of Europe that they bothered to invade not just Greece but also the small Greek island of Corfu and then the nearby much smaller island of Erikousa. As Yvette writes, "Erikousa's remoteness, the fact that she was merely a tiny speck of land on the horizon and was rarely found on any map, was not enough to keep Nazi soldiers from completing their mission."
Under Yvette's guidance, the book is being made into a not-yet-finished documentary film called "Hope," which some of us got to see half of recently. There's not yet a scheduled release date for the completed film, but I'll do my best to alert you when that happens. In the meantime, you've got time to read the book.
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A HINDU BLUE WAVE?
Growing political activism on the part of Hindus in the U.S. means, this report says, that in the next Congress there could be as many as eight Hindus. This is how America works -- and should work. One minority group after another finds its way here and negotiates its place in society. So good for the Hindus.
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P.S.: The next "Contemporary Spirituality" speaker will be Mike Graves, who teaches preaching and worship at St. Paul School of Theology. He'll be talking about dinner churches, which I wrote about here. This will happen the morning of Saturday, May 5. All the details you need are in this pdf flier: Download RevGravesMay5