Through the train window, she watched the villages and vineyards of the Italian countryside go by. It was 1942 and Sussi Penzias, a young Jewish woman who'd fled Nazi Germany, was traveling alone, hoping to remain unnoticed. Since she'd arrived in Italy three years earlier, she'd been moving from place to place, staying with friends and friends of friends, hiding from the authorities. Now she was on her way to yet another safe house in a new town.
Suddenly, the door at the end of the train car swung open and two police
officers came in. Sussi's heart beat wildly. They were wearing the black
uniform of the Fascisti, the government police. To Sussi's horror, the policemen began making their way down the aisle, stopping at every row to examine the papers of each passenger.
Sussi knew that as soon as the policemen discovered she had no papers, she would be arrested. She was terrified she'd end up in a concentration camp, and would face unimaginable suffering and almost certain death.
The officers were getting closer, just a few rows away. There was no
escape. It was only a matter of minutes before they would reach her
seat. Sussi began to tremble uncontrollably, and tears slid down her cheeks.
The man sitting next to her noticed her distress and politely asked her
why she was crying.
"I'm Jewish and I have no papers," she whispered, hardly able to speak.
To her surprise, a few seconds later the man began shouting at her, "You
idiot! I can't believe how stupid you are! What an imbecile!"
The police officers, hearing the commotion, stopped what they were doing and came over. "What's going on here?" one of them asked. Sussi began crying even harder.
The man turned a disgusted face to the policemen and said, "Officers,
take this woman away! I have my papers, but my wife has forgotten hers! She always forgets everything. I'm so sick of her. I don't ever want to
see her again!"
The officers laughed, shaking their heads at the couple's marital spat,
and moved on.
With a selfless act of caring, the stranger on the train had saved
Sussi's life. Sussi never saw the man again. She never even knew his
* * * * *
When Sussi's great-niece, Shifra, told me this story, I was in awe. I
wondered, What is it that inspires someone to extend himself, even risk his life, for someone he doesn't know? The man on the train didn't help Sussi because she'd made him a great breakfast that morning or had
picked up his dry cleaning. He helped her because in that moment of
heroism he was moved by an impulse of compassion and unconditional love. I'm not talking about Hollywood or Hallmark-card kind of love, but love as a state of being-the kind of love that is limitless and doesn't ask to be returned.
Is it possible to live in that state of unconditional love all the time?
That was the question I set out to answer when I started writing my most recent book, Love for No Reason. And what I learned through my research is that each of us can grow in unconditional love, the kind of love that doesn't depend on any person or situation. Imagine loving people, not because they fill your needs or because their opinions match your own, but because you're connected to a state of pure love within yourself.
This simple but profound shift creates remarkable changes in every area of life. Instead of feeling a little hungry all the time-for love,
security, more stuff, more recognition, more everything-people who are unconditionally loving feel full and complete. It affects how they show up in every moment. In fact, though a person's life might not depend on making this shift, the quality of his or her life does. When people live in unconditional love their world turns from black-and-white to dazzling
By Marci Shimoff. Adapted from Love for No Reason: 7 Steps to Creating a
Life of Unconditional Love (Free Press, December 2010), which offers a breakthrough approach to experiencing a lasting state of unconditional love. www.TheLoveBook.com
Brought to you by: Lawyer Asad