#PassionDriven Conversations: Guest Blogger – David Truss

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On this day we welcome David Truss with the Passion-Driven guest blog post. David is – in his own words – a husband, a parent, an educator, a student, a thinker, a dreamer, an agent of change. Enjoy!

Two Wolves – A Remembrance Day Reflection

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

“The other wolf is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

“The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person too.”

The grandson thought about this for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”


It was the summer of 1993 and I was in Israel playing Water Polo at the Maccabiah Games. Certain memories stick with me to this day:

  • 40,000+ cheering fans at opening ceremonies
  • Floating in the Dead Sea
  • Having a semi-automatic machine gun unintentionally, but repeatedly bumping into me on a dance floor
  • Masada
  • Visiting Jerusalem and the Wailing Wall

My first visit to Jerusalem held a surprise. We had a day off before the semi finals and our team decided to take the bus tour to Jerusalem. I was ‘tagging along’ rather than being one of the people who chose what we did, so I neglected to read the advertisement for the bus tour. I neglected to notice that the bus first stopped at the Holocaust Museum.

I hopped on the bus, camera packed, ready to visit the sights of this ancient city. Imagine my surprise when the bus pulled into the parking lot of the Museum. “Where are we?”

My happy-go-lucky-tourist-with-camera-in-hand attitude hit a plexiglass wall the moment I walked in the door. There in front of me, on a pedestal, was a plexiglass cube about 40cm³ filled with gold teeth. Early on in the concentration camps these were pulled from the mouths of Jews on their way to the gas chambers, but it was quickly realized that dead Jews don’t scream and so they started pulling these valuable gold teeth out after the Jews had been gassed.

The Hall of Names containing Pages of Testimony commemorating the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Photo credit: David Shankbone

The museum tour was quiet and solemn. Two translated letters, one from a German Commandant and the other from a German Captain,  also stick with me to this day. Forgive my paraphrasing, this was over 15 years ago.

The one from the German Concentration Camp Commandant was sent to another Commandant inviting him to come and see the new gas chambers where they could now, ‘efficiently exterminate 2,000 rather than just 750 Jews at a time.”

Dehumanize the targets.

The one from the Captain was giving advice to other Captains and it said, ‘Be sure that when executing Jews by firing squad to have at least two of your soldiers shooting at each Jew. Although this may seem like a waste of bullets, it removes the guilt that your soldiers feel since they know that even if they did not shoot, that the Jew would still be terminated. The cost of the extra bullet is worth the removal of guilt from your soldiers and the boost in morale.’

Depersonalize the deed.

Both of these perverse letters have had a lasting impression on me because in their own sick way, they make perfect sense. If you are going to be in the business of murder, it makes sense to think of it as extermination, as we do not think twice about exterminating bothersome bugs. If you are going ask soldiers to be obedient and murder for you, it makes sense that you remove guilt from their task.

Rationalize evil.

We do that today, after all we have ‘counter-terrorism’ and we do illegal things in the name of ‘national security’ and our soldiers die in ‘friendly fire’ and of course we don’t support this, rather we ‘support our troops’.

Which wolf are we feeding?

I’ve taught a student of the Bahia faith, whose family had to flea Iran in the middle of the night for fear of being murdered.

I’ve taught a student who hiked for three days in the mountains of Afghanistan with his pregnant mom, younger brother and father, as they fled the new regime. Mom was a teacher in Afghanistan, but when I met her she was washing dishes in a restaurant.

I’ve taught a Serbian who did her Grade 8 public speech on the cruelty of the United Nations. Her Grandfather and best friend were blown up in a crowded shopping mall by a UN plane. Her life was spared because she forgot her purse in the car and went running back to get it.

Who is the enemy?

My life has been very different. As an immigrant to Canada I moved to a mostly Greek neighbourhood and had three close friends that welcomed me into their houses and their lives. I followed these friends to a High School where, for different reasons, they all left by Grade 11, leaving me to fend for myself for Grades 12 and 13, (Ontario had Grade 13 back then).

I left high school with 5 very close friends: A Canadian born of Scottish decent, a German, an African Born Shiite Muslim, a Canadian Sunni Muslim, and a Canadian Jew with East Indian decent. Oh and as for me… my wife describes me as a Chinese Jew from Barbados… (I describe myself as Heinz57 or a mutt).

I wore a kilt in the wedding party for Ross, the Canadian Scott, and I lived with Kassim, the Shiite Muslim, in his house for 5 days leading up to his wedding, living as a surrogate brother and participating in every ceremony.

And as for being a Jew, I think most Jews would say that I am not Jewish. You see, Judiasim is a matriarchal religion and my Grandmother, my Mother’s Mother, is to this day a Catholic. She was happily married, a role model marriage like few I’ve seen, to my Jewish Grandfather until he died.

We can co-exist.

When I read Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat I was drawn to the ideas in his very powerful final chapter where he talks of cultures that are stuck on History rather than Hope. There can never be peace in the Middle East if History trumps Hope. Jerusalem taught me that: As a city with great historical significance to three very different religions, Jerusalem should be a sacred and holy place, not a place of hostility and tension.  But where we have ‘anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego,’ we have evil, and we will never have peace.

We remember.

There are parts of History we should not forget. After all, World War One was the ‘war to end all wars’… And so I am writing this on Remembrance Day for a reason. Whether it be concentration camps and the Holocaust or Hiroshima and Nagasaki or genocide in Russia, Rwanda, or East Timor… or any tragic historical event worth remembering… we choose to remember so that we do not repeat our mistakes. We must want and hope that things can be better. We must see lessons learned, not resentment and mistrust. The past will repeat itself if we do not see ‘joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith’… faith that tomorrow can be better than today.

And the battle continues…

“The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person too.”

The grandson thought about this for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

May you always feed the good wolf.

– – – – –

This “Two Wolves” post was originally posted on David Truss’
Pairadimes for Your Thoughts blog on Remembrance Day 2008.
…Shared here because Compassion is an important aspect of Passion!
David is a Principal of a Pre-K to Grade 9 Foreign Nationals School in Dalian, China,
He can also be found online on Twitter @datruss or on one of these other sites:
Think Good Thoughts, Say Good Words, Do Good Deeds.



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Photo on Flickr by Grzegorz

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  • Michal

    This is one of the most moving reflections I’ve read in a while – thank you for sharing, Dave.
    My dad’s family were Jews living in Germany who had to leave everything in order to escape the Nazis – thankfully my Oma, her sister and parents were able to do so, others in her family were not so lucky.

  • http://twitter.com/Aaannne Anne De Manser

    Thank you for this moving reflection which I will share with my students next week.
    ‘Lest we forget’.

  • http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com/ datruss

    Thanks for the comments. My dad’s dad was in the ‘show’ cavalry in the Ukraine during the war and a guest inspector came to see them perform. Upon dismounting for part of the inspection, the inspector told my grandfather that he was too short and that he had to leave the group and join the regular army. He bribed a doctor to say that he was sick and needed medical help in Italy, and then escaped to the Caribbean. He was saving money to get his wife & kid shipped over when his wife fell ill and died. It would be another 25+ years before he found his first son, but he did marry my grandmother and start a new family. My mom’s dad was in Poland, his dad, my great grandfather, and my great uncle Sol saw that trouble was coming and fled, also heading the Caribbean. They tried to convince the rest of the family to join them, but as the story was told to me, the response was, “We are in the sweater business, what would be do in the Caribbean?” The answer to that was simple: ‘live’! The family members that did not leave were almost all killed during the second invasion of Poland.

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