Holocaust Memorial Day

We are battling through the winter months. Very soon we’ll be in February and spring time then seems to be in touching distance. We’ll have some dark wintry days between now and those bright spring mornings but as each day passes we move closer to that light and that warmth.

Just last week, in an attempt to offer some light-hearted cheer, I wrote about Blue Monday and I had identified some ‘special days’ you might have missed. It was just a load of old nonsense really – you know that! We don’t take seriously those random days, generally promoted by retailers with a particular agenda.

However, in amongst all that nonsense there are some desperately serious days that we should remember and recognise. They are set out across the year and occasionally those very important days can be missed.

It’s in this vein that I would like to pay tribute to all of those involved in recognising and marking Holocaust Memorial Day. I had the honour today of attending an event in the town centre. This event included the Mayor, the Master cutler, the High Sheriff, the South Yorkshire Lieutenancy, our local MP and council leaders. We also had a really decent cross-section of our local population and quite a few local school children. Those dignitaries and local people gathered to mark the lives, and recognise the loss, of so many millions of people persecuted across the centuries; with particular emphasis on the horrors of the Nazi persecution of the Jews and a whole range of other marginalised groups across central Europe, some eighty years ago. And we could also mention of Darfur, Bosnia, Cambodia, Rwanda, the list (sadly) goes on.

The theme for this year’s memorial was ‘Ordinary People’. It’s stating the obvious to note that it’s always ordinary people who get caught in the crossfire; who are the victims of persecution; who are the individuals who perpetrate the acts themselves – driven by ideology or more typically by fear.

The thing is, I came away from the event today thinking how extraordinary people are; far from ordinary. Just an individual’s very existence, the uniqueness of each and every one of us – that is worth celebrating. People do extraordinary things, day in and day out. Things that don’t get mentioned, that don’t hit the headlines.

Working in education we understand and value that uniqueness. Each one of our pupils, our students, is unique and they all will present us with their very uniqueness; some of it good, some of it a challenge. With all that is extraordinary we will, and do, remain patient and we remain committed to ensuring that all of our charges can be who they are without fear of disappointment, anger and that being ‘let down’ feeling. And we hope that they can grow up in a town, in a country, where that uniqueness, all that is extraordinary, is accepted and celebrated.

 ‘Heroes are ordinary people who make themselves extraordinary.’ Gerard Way

It is reassuring and important that communities can come together to collectively remember and recognise. If we have any chance of the future being safe and secure for our children we need to understand and educate each other about those mistakes made in history, however distant, however recent. Standing alongside others today, in a minute’s silence, I could reflect upon all that is ordinary and all that is extraordinary about people.