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Posts Tagged ‘Hitler’s First Photograph’

It’s a baby, a little, little baby. How sweet. How cute. What potential!

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. [Luke 2:12, NIV]

babyIn Greek, the word is brephos, which can either mean an unborn child or a newborn child, but interestingly enough, this word is gender neutral. As a result, this is the same word that is used for the baby that Elizabeth carries in her womb and “leaps for joy” when Mary came to visit [Luke 1:41], along with six other references. And my favorite reference is in I Peter 2:2, where brethos is used to describe young believers who should crave “spiritual milk,” and cast off the food of the world.

But I’m getting off track. I wanted instead to talk about a baby’s potential. You see, from the outside in, we do not know what is in store for every baby we see. Facebook is filled with pictures of babies, taken by proud parents, who are full of hope and expectations for their baby. They want to give this baby the best of everything, the opportunities, the nourishment, the foundation. They love this baby so much.

And yet, how many mothers collapse in grief when their child becomes a murderer or a drug addict or an abuser? How did this happen? What happened to all that potential?

We know that prophecies abounded about the Christ child who would come into the world innocently enough, but who knew his life would only last 33 years? Who knew he would be mostly rejected? Who knew, really, that it would all happen to this particular baby? Not even the mother knew for sure, despite the miraculous circumstances of his birth. She continued to ponder all those things in her heart [Luke 2:19]

A baby depends on the “village” around him/her to grow and become. If we succeed, if God’s intent is encouraged and prevails, we have a saint. But if we fail that child, what then?

Hitler’s First Photograph
——-Wislawa Szymborska

And who’s this little fellow in his itty-bitty robe?
That’s tiny baby Adolf, the Hitlers little boy!
Will he grow up to be an LL.D.?
Or a tenor in Vienna’s Opera House?
Whose teensy hand is this, whose little ear and eye and nose?
Whose tummy full of milk, we just don’t know:
printer’s, doctor’s, merchant’s, priest’s?
Where will those tootsy-wootsies finally wander?
To garden, to school, to an office, to a bride,
maybe to the Burgermeister’s daughter?

Precious little angel, mommy’s sunshine, honeybun,
while he was being born a year ago,
there was no dearth of signs on the earth and in the sky:
spring sun, geraniums in windows,
the organ-grinder’s music in the yard,
a lucky fortune wrapped in rosy paper,
then just before the labor his mother’s fateful dream:
a dove seen in dream means joyful news,
if it is caught, a long-awaited guest will come.
Knock knock, who’s there, it’s Adolf’s heartchen knocking.

A little pacifier, diaper, rattle, bib,
our bouncing boy, thank God and knock on wood, is well,
looks just like his folks, like a kitten in a basket,
like the tots in every other family album.
Shush, let’s not start crying, sugar,
the camera will click from under that black hood.

The Klinger Atelier, Grabenstrasse, Braunau,
and Braunau is small but worthy town,
honest businesses, obliging neighbors,
smell of yeast dough, of gray soap.
No one hears howling dogs, or fate’s footsteps.
A history teacher loosens his collar
and yawns over homework.

— Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavenagh, translators
from The People on the Bridge

 

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