“A good leader inspires others with confidence in him; a great leader inspires them with confidence in themselves. ”
Nick Morgan told me this story. In 1944 Robert Desnos, born 1900 in Paris, had become a poet and member of the French Resistance and subsequently arrested by the Gestapo. While interred in Auschwitz he and his companions and friends watched over the weeks as their fellow inmates were gathered in groups on trains to be taken away. The Gestapo said nothing of their fates but everyone knew, as no one returned, that they were being sent to die. One day the guards came to gather Robert and a few hundred others into the trains.
Everyone knew with sullen despondency what was to happen and the train was silent with loss, and fear. In a flash of impulse Robert reached to the man next to him and grabbed his hand. “I will read your fortune!” he said. And told the man he would live a long life, with marriage and children. He grabbed the next man’s hand and read a fortune of wealth and entrepreneurship and joy, and again and again he grabbed each man’s hand and conjured a fortune full of life and joy and expectation. In each case throughout the train he offered a reading of hope and long life and joy.
The Gestapo became disoriented and unsure of their charge to execute the men and stopped the train. The guards became tentative and unsure of how to proceed in the face of this jubilation and turned the train around. No one died that day. As Susan Griffin writes, “Through the power of imagination, he saved his own life and the lives of others.”
A beautiful story indeed, and imagine how this vision of joy might translate to your work, to your life. As John Hope Bryant says: there are only two things in the world, love and fear. At the point of greatest despair, if you can conjure hope, it will resonate around you and change the world.