Peacemaker Fridays: October 7, 2016

We normally share a few stories with you for Peacemaker Friday, but this week, one story stood out so much, that we think it’s worth spending a little extra time with. It’s the story of an unassuming French man named Adolfo Kamisky, who quietly saved thousands of lives.

He saved thousands… with paper.

Adolfo Kaminsky, 91, lives in subsidized housing in France. He walks to the corner market for his daily newspaper. He shares coffee regularly with his daughter. But 72 years ago—at the height of World War II—Kaminsky started down a lifelong path to saving lives.

Tens of thousands of lives.

With paper.  

In 1944, Kaminsky—a Jewish teenager living with false papers in Paris—joined an underground resistance cell, forging documents. With paper alone—fake birth certificates, passports, health records, and marriage certificates—he saved many lives, including a large number of children. His expertly forged documents allowed people to exit the country or avoid deportation to concentration camps.

After World War II, Mr. Kaminsky continued to save lives by creating false papers for people in nearly every major conflict around the world. He did his work in secret and never accepted payment.

Kaminsky’s story inspires us because of his fierce determination to fight for the dignity and safety of every human being. “I saved lives because I can’t deal with unnecessary deaths—I just can’t,” he told the New York Times. “All humans are equal, whatever their origins, their beliefs, their skin color.”

But his story inspires us for another reason: he reminds us of you.

Kaminsky proves that simple things—like paper—can make all the difference.

As our CEO Jeremy Courtney writes in his book, “I did not yet realize that paperwork saves lives. Police officers save lives. Firefighters save lives. Surgeons save lives. But people who push paper around?”

It’s easy to see it in the people who drive by roadside bombs, who brave confrontation with an 80-vehicle ISIS convoy, or stand in the fumes of a recent chemical attack to bring food, medical care, and shelter to refugees.

It’s easy to see in in the hands of the man who feeds the captured ISIS member who murdered his friend. It is easy to see bravery in the little boy burned by ISIS for defending his grandmother.

It’s easy to see the bravery and heroism in stories like these.

But what you do—do you know the difference it makes?  

Every time you share one of these stories. Every little heart that lights up on Instagram. Every time you speak an encouraging word, or share a smile with someone who is “different” or “other.” Every bar of refugee-made soap you purchase. Every single penny you donate. Every act of peace. We want you to know—it makes a difference.

It looks a lot like bravery and heroism to us.

What you do allows us to do what we do. More importantly, what you do allows these ideas of loving first and waging peace and reaching across enemy lines to spread—to seep out, slowly saturating the people around you.  

Like Kaminsky’s small pieces of paper, your small acts are the threads that create lifelines.

And those threads are literally saving tens of thousands of lives.