Lipstick? Yes, lipstick sent to those in a Bergen-Belsen Holocaust interment camp. In 1945, after the British Red Cross arrived at the camp a large quantity of lipstick arrived there as well. Reflecting in his diary, Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin wrote,
“This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don’t know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it; it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for these internees than the lipstick…. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.“
I heard this story at Mars Hill this morning and have not been able to get it off my mind. How absurd, lipstick giving back humanity? I get and then I don’t get it. Its beautiful but it also seems vain. I get the idea of providing some sense of normalcy but it seems like immediate needs would be more important. I probably would not be one to think of sending lipstick but I am glad someone did because it challenges me to something more.
This story then makes me wonder about the very essence of what makes us human. What is it? What makes us human or at least feel like it? Is this stories reaffirmation of beauty or something normal what gives back humanity? I wonder who’s genius sparked the shipment of lipstick. Was it a mistake or was it an intentional move? Either way, it served a beautiful purpose in giving back dignity to those who had gone so long without it.
All of this makes me wonder how I might help restore and renewed the dignity and humanity of others? What absurdities am I to offer others?