Courageous Compassion – Around the World with an 88-Year-Old Man (a documentary film)

Why is an 88-year-old man driving around the world? To help the world understand or realize that one person can make a difference as he demonstrates with his own legacy and stories.

Our vision for this film is that each viewer walks away knowing, “I can make a difference in this world.” This film is intended to reach impassioned people needing that spark or catalyst to take that first step into courageous compassion.

Joining this 88-year-old passionate spark for change will be documentary filmmaker Mike O’Krent, who interviewed Holocaust survivors for Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.

The third person on this remarkable journey will be cinematographer and award winning documentary filmmaker, Robert Sud (Emerging Filmmaker Award - Gray’s Reef Film Festival, sponsored by National Geographic.)

Within every human being is compassion and when sparked (by a film like this) they tend to show courageous compassion. In making this film, ordinary people around the world will be asked how they have shown courageous compassion in their lives and why they acted upon it. Their answers will light the spark inside each viewer of the film…that spark to act upon their own courageous compassion.

Who better to ask those questions than one whose life has been the example of courageous compassion? Walter’s story along with the stories collected on the path will be the spark that causes people to show their courageous compassion.

Walter’s Story
Walter Meyer was a Hitler Youth, who broke from the Nazi ranks in 1940, risking his own life and the lives of his family in the process. He passed letters to and from French prisoners—if he had been caught, he could have been executed on the spot. At the age of 12 he hid a Jewish friend, Hans—for that, the Nazis could have executed his whole family.

Walter ultimately escaped not one but three Nazi prison camps. After the War, he stowed away on a freight ship to Argentina, lived a few years in South America, made his way up to the U.S., and without even a high school education, he went on to earn three PhDs.

Along the way he joined a program called “People to People,” a movement founded by President Eisenhower to create everyday citizen “ambassadors” between countries. Serving in this program, Walter traveled across South America, where he realized that stories are contagious, and compassion is, too. And this is when the idea occurred to him: he promised himself that one day he’d do a similar journey across Siberia. He wanted to hear people share where they, like he did as a child, found their courageous compassion. This man who experienced unspeakable hate wanted to spread a message of unspeakable courage and love.

Walter will soon turn 88 and still dreams of making that journey. And if you ask him how he’ll survive it, he’ll stare you dead in the eye and say, “Why wouldn’t I?”

NOTE: In fact, Walter recently had a fall that resulted in a tiny fracture on his pelvis. When asked if that would keep him from going on the trip, he responded, “I sit here today remembering the pain and suffering I faced in the Nazi prison camps and I say to myself, ‘This is nothing.’” He then paused and said, “Of course I’m still going on this trip!”

Our Journey
This six-month journey will begin with a trip from Austin to Tacoma, where we’ll catch a ship to Magadan, Russia. This is the eastern end of the Road of Bones, which is now treated as a memorial -- the bones of the people who died while constructing it were laid beneath or around the road. We’ll head west through Russia and into Europe, retracing Walter’s path through the Holocaust, and from Antwerp catch another ship to Buenos Aires, Argentina where they’ll then drive north back to Texas.

Please consider supporting this effort to empower our world to take that small step to make a difference.

To learn more about the project and sponsorship opportunities, contact Mike O'Krent or Dr. Walter Meyer at mokrent@lifestoriesalive.com or 512-431-8166.

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