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June 28, 2021 Monday 10:38:56 AM IST

Helpers Along the Way


I Am David is a novel written by Danish journalist Anne Holm (1922-1998). First published in Danish in 1963, this novel became an instant bestseller and has been translated into several languages, including English, German, French, and Konkani. By the time Anne died in 1998, two million copies of this book were sold worldwide. Walden Media of America made a movie under the same name in 2003.

The story begins in the aftermath of World War II in a concentration camp, presumably in Bulgaria. It revolves around 12-year-old David, who was taken away from his mother and put in a concentration camp when he was a toddler. He has no recollections of anything outside the concentration camp. He was told the guards killed his parents.

Ever since he came to the dreadful camp, fellow prisoner Johannes became his friend and guardian. However, he died of heart failure, leaving David alone. In the meantime, a guard was secretly helping him to stay healthy and safe. This guard orchestrated David's escape from the camp giving him directions to go to Denmark. He did so because he was in love with David's mother, whom he had allowed to escape earlier. However, he did not tell her the whereabouts of David since she rejected his love.

As directed by the guard, David escaped from the camp in the dead of night and got into a truck going to Salonica in Greece. From there, he sneaked into a freighter going to Italy. However, a sailor found him hiding in the cargo hold. Instead of bringing him to the attention of the authorities, this kind-hearted sailor helped him escape when they arrived near Italy. With the lifebelt the sailor gave, David swam to safety.

David was out in the world for the first time in his life. When the people of the town he first reached began to question him, he walked to the north to get to Milan. During this hazardous journey, some people helped him with food and money. While he received help from others, he also found opportunities to help others. Once, he saved a girl named Maria from a fire which accidentally broke out in a shed. The family of this girl invited him to stay with them for a while. While he enjoyed staying with them, mainly because he became fond of Maria, David left them as he saw tensions rising in the family because of his presence.

His destination was Copenhagen in Denmark. So from Italy, he crossed over to Switzerland, where he met Sophie, an artist who befriended him to do his portrait. Later while having lunch with her, he noticed the picture of a woman who had written a book about her escape from the concentration camp. As Sophie narrated the story of this escape, he realized it was his mother.

Without wasting time, he continued his journey to Denmark. On the way, a farmer exploited him when he sought food and shelter during the winter months. However, he broke free from him and finally reached Copenhagen crossing East Germany. Finding his mother's address from a telephone directory, he knocked at his mother's door, who instantly recognized him as her son David. It was a reunion against all odds.

Our journey in life is often challenging and dangerous. Unless we receive help from others, we will never make it. Fortunately, we always come across helpers along the way, as David did during his long trip from the concentration camp to the home of his mother. Of course, David had gone through hell while he was in the concentration camp. However, even there, David had help from others, including Johannes and the guard. It was through their support he survived the perils of the concentration camp and found his way to freedom.

We all need helpers along the way as we journey through life, especially when facing severe challenges, hardships, and disappointments. And this is a reminder that we should become helpers for others along the way, as seen in the life of David. While he received help from many on the road to freedom, he also did his share in helping people along the way.

American author Fred Rogers writes, "We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say, 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes." The whole world needs more heroes of this kind as most people continue to struggle through life. 

Jose Panthaplamthottiyil

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