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Sunflower field at sunset

On March 20th, a 7-year-old girl from Ukraine stepped onto an arena stage in the Polish city of Lodz, about 80 miles from Warsaw. Dressed in her country’s native costume with her blonde hair in twin braids, her sweet voice filled the air with the Ukrainian national anthem, the title of which loosely translates to “Ukraine has not yet perished”. (It’s our fervent hope that this will still be true when you read this.)

While it’s true that the people in the audience may have understood some if not all of the words — Poland and Ukraine share a border after all — it’s almost guaranteed that the hundreds of thousands of people who have watched the video online didn’t understand much of it at all.

But what we did understand — from what we were easily able to glean from this fearless little girl’s equally fearless performance before thousands — was the unbreakable spirit of the Ukrainian people.

Driven from their homes with not much more than pets and the possessions they could carry, these men, women and children found their way into neighboring countries. Many of their residents — old enough to remember the ravages of World War II visited upon them by invading Ukrainian forces — welcomed them with open arms.

None of that matters today. Not one iota. (That is one of the most heartening things to come out of this whole atrocity, but that is perhaps a topic for another day.)

These refugees found waiting for them language-less expressions of welcome and hope along the border between Poland and Ukraine, where kind-hearted strangers left baby strollers and carriers, winter jackets, stuffed animals, diapers and even walkers for the elderly alongside the railway. And this is just one example of the many kindnesses that have been visited on Ukrainian refugees by both ordinary citizens and humanitarian groups.

This ability to rise above words, and to communicate with selfless acts and gestures of kindness, is the thing that so fully restores faith in humanity and shows us that while we may not all speak the same language, when it comes to healing, we understand the same language: the language of love and kindness and forgiving.

And that, my friends, is a language worth mastering, no matter how long it takes. Even if it takes a lifetime.

Each time we rise up as a people to protect those who are suffering, we rise up as a people to bolster the future of humanity.

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