When the Nobel committee decided to award Al Gore the coveted Peace Prize in 2007 for compiling an animated documentary about really hot weather, I thought, hmm. Well, not everyone can be Mother Theresa of Calcutta.
But when I learned who he beat out for the prize that year, I felt sick to my stomach.
Irina Sender was a Polish woman who, at great personal risk, smuggled children out of the Nazi-occupied Warsaw ghetto. She was ingenious, hiding them in the bottom of a toolbox she carried as a plumber, or covering them in burlap bags. She managed to save nearly 2,500 children this way, and when the Nazis discovered what she was doing, they broke her legs, arms, and beat her severely.
But it was too late. She’d already saved an army of innocents, some of whom were eventually reunited with their parents. Tragically, most of the others were left orphans because their mothers and fathers died in the concentration camps. And since giving life wasn’t enough, Sender made sure that the lives those orphaned children led were redeemed, and found them adoptive parents.
Virtually every one of those children was Jewish. Sendler was Catholic. Which, of course, is irrelevant and only worth noting here because it underscores the depth of her courage in staring down monsters when she was in no imminent danger herself. She put her life on the line for defenseless strangers.
Greater love hath no man, or woman. Sendler was nominated for the Peace Prize in 2007.
Too bad she lost out to a guy who makes award-winning cartoons.