By Joan Janzen
What causes someone to use whatever influence they have to care for people who are less fortunate? Audrey Hepburn, whose career spanned the Golden Age of Hollywood, passed away nearly three decades ago, however her granddaughter continues to carry on her humanitarian efforts.
Audrey travelled the world meeting and helping some of the world’s most vulnerable children, right up until her death. Her granddaughter said she was the first celebrity to go into countries, visit the poor, cradle the babies and hug the mothers.
The values Audrey promoted stood the test of time, but what caused her to use her fame and fortune to help others? It was because she was also rescued and pulled out of the famine in the Netherlands after the Second World War. It was because of what she experienced as a teen during WWII.
Back in 1941 she witnessed cancel culture and censorship. A local shop keeper was arrested for listening to a “forbidden radio channel” and given a ten month jail sentence. Audrey developed a love for dance, but by 1942 all organizations became political, even entertainment. The German dictators took over all organizations and Jews were excluded.
Audrey worked as a volunteer in a doctor’s clinic. The doctor, as well as all his colleagues, worked with the Resistance. The hospital was the secret Resistance headquarters and all doctors hid Jews in their homes.
Audrey’s celebrity as a dancer made her valuable to the doctors and the Resistance, who held illegal musical performances at various by-invitation-only locations. These events were called “black evenings” when windows were blacked out, as musicians and dancers performed as a way to raise money for those who were sheltering tens of thousands of Jews throughout the Netherlands. Although Audrey suffered from malnutrition, she continued to perform for the cause.
The Easter holiday is now behind us, when many celebrated a man who lived a life of rescuing people, and died and rose from the dead to rescue people. It was the most significant humanitarian effort on planet earth. It is a legacy that has stood the test of time, and now generations keep that legacy alive by promoting a culture of caring.
Audrey Hepburn’s son said when his mother talked about life lessons she had learned, she never mentioned Hollywood; she talked about her experiences during the war. Fame and fortune hadn’t taught her to care for others. She had received a legacy from doctors who cared for, and hid Jews in their homes, at the risk of execution.
Emerging from a bomb shelter and witnessing the devastation around her, would have influenced her perspective on the value of human life. It was a time when people whole heartedly helped one another in order to survive. Audrey’s humanitarian efforts began well before she ever attained celebrity status, but fortunately she chose to continue caring for the less fortunate.
Today we need a culture of caring for others. It’s a legacy worth passing on throughout the generations.
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