Life Lessons from Gerda

By Patricia Noel Drain

In her book, “What Should I Be When I Grow Up? (Now That I’m 40, 50, 60),” Patricia Noel Drain CPC, CIPC, author, professional speaker, and consultant, tells how to discover what it is you really want to do with your life.

Although Drain focuses on career matters, she realizes that inspiration often comes from outside the workplaceand that special encounters have the potential to greatly impact all aspects of your life.

She tells readers about one such inspirational experience.


Patricia Drain Shares a Story

Assisted by her granddaughter, 85-year-old Gerda Weissmann Klein humbly took the stage and started to speak. It was noisy in the room because we were eating lunch. You could hear the clatter of silverware, but within moments the room was completely silent; only Gerda’s voice could be heard.

She said…

“I was 15 when we entered camp together, my best friend Ilsa and me. One day she found a beautiful raspberry. She put her hand through the barbed-wire fence and put it in her pocket. It was her only possession. She carried it with her all day until that evening. She then gave it to me. When you can give your only possession to someone else, then you know what true friendship is, what true love feels like.

“Ilsa did not make it to freedom; she was not there when my hero opened my box and light poured in. She was not there when he said, ‘You are free!’

“I had been so indoctrinated that I responded with, ‘But I am Jewish!’ He said, very quietly, ‘So am I.’

“I was 21 that day of freedom, in rags, 68 pounds, grey hair, no bath in three years-yet he held the door open for me. I couldn’t believe my eyes … he held the door for me.

“How would I know that one year later we would marry and that I would be the lucky one to live in this wonderful country full of freedom, openness, opportunity. Just imagine … this was given to me … those were sacred days, raising our three children and eight grandchildren.”

She ended that riveting speech by saying:

“You are the messengers. We are all in a moment of reflection. We have had a wake-up call.

“This country was built on hope of a better world, and I am confident we will prevail and that our children and grandchildren will know a time of which the prophets spoke. So go out into the sunshine or snowflakes, go out into the beautiful artwork of nature, knowing this too shall pass.

“Go out into the magic of your life and your freedom. God bless you and your families for making this a better world.”

Now you see why I had to share as much as I could with you from that magical moment Gerda spoke to us.

She continually said throughout the speech, “Why me?” There were so many like her; she could not understand how she got to be so lucky, so blessed.

Her lessons were simple and were sprinkled throughout the speech.

Here are five of them that I took away:

1. The mind is so powerful, so use it to its full potential.
2. Give gratitude for every waking moment you have here.
3. Always ask, “Why am I here?”
4. Know that it is your obligation to do something.
5. Share your pain … don’t waste it.

I am happy to share this with readers, and grateful to have you in my life.

Patricia Noel Drain is an author, professional speaker, and consultant. She can be contacted via her website,