A Surprise Visit

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Oct 23, 2010

"The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us."
Ashley Montagu

Just about everyone likes surprises. Whether it is an email note from a friend we haven't heard from in a long time or traveling to a place and finding something there we never expected, surprises are the spice of life. One of the reasons we like birthday and Christmas celebrations is the element of surprise when we give or receive gifts. 

Every now and then I am surprised by the response I get from someone who has read this weekly column. Over the years I have met readers in grocery stores and gas stations and restaurants and even on the sidewalks of Phoenixville who have read this column. I always enjoy hearing how something I wrote connected with someone else. I guess it also reminds me that there really are persons who are reading what I am writing. 

Some months ago I received a gracious note from one such reader named Rose Knezits. In order to express my appreciation, I sent her my "Volume VIII" compilation of this column Think About It. Each year I gather all of the essays from that year into one single volume and that was my eighth year. 

How surprised I was one day when I saw her name on my schedule. Rose had contacted my Administrative Assistant and set up an appointment to come by for a visit. As soon as we began talking I knew I must learn more about this delightful person. 

Rose was only 19 years old in 1957 when she and her family came to the United States. Tears filled her eyes as she spoke with her mild accent of the harrowing experiences her family went through under the Communist regime "back in Hungary." She had first-hand knowledge of non-Jews who also died in places like Auschwitz. 

I am always deeply moved by the way profound life experiences stay with us no matter how many decades pass by. It reminds me of a statement I heard years ago that anyone of us can be brought to tears if the right subject is brought up. 

For persons like Rose freedom is more than a casual reference to celebrate once a year on the 4th of July. Even after all of these years she savors every morsel and she sips every drop and she smells every odor of it every day of her life. 

Her whole life changed once she got settled in Phoenixville. In this small town next to the big city of Philadelphia, she and her husband raised three daughters. And though he passed away 10 years ago, her family is still one of the reasons she is most proud. Her face beamed as she spoke of the time she spends with her children and grandchildren. 

Rose is also very proud of one other accomplishment. At the age of 49 she earned her college degree from Wilmington College. For Christians as well as for Jews, life under Communism was hard. There were few opportunities to excel academically but once her children were raised, she decided to earn her degree. 

I wish you could have felt what I did as she spoke with deep conviction how important that quest was for her. It was as though she not only did it for herself but also to let those cruel leaders know once and for all that they had no more influence over her. 

At the end of our visit we walked toward the front door of our Administration Building and there, by chance, we bumped into Evie. I wasn't sure if I was happier because Evie met her or because she met Evie. 

Although Rose had come to talk to me about the column, I knew that her influence on me was greater than mine could ever have been on her. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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