The Hunger Games: Katniss volunteers… would I?

In The Hunger Games, when young Primrose Everdeen is selected as tribute, Katniss volunteers to replace her little sister in what is surely a death sentence without a moments hesitation or thought. And while she regrets many things she does in the months and years to follow, volunteering to replace her sister is not one of them

Esther, recruited to be queen, can keep silent and perhaps survive the genocide looming over her people. Or she can speak up and be the first to die.

“I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute,” Katniss Everdeen, resident of District 12.

“If I perish, I perish,” Esther, Queen of Persia, Jew.

Although written millennia apart, the same steely determination rings through both of these  statements. Both young women face impossible odds for a victory that could improve their worlds – or a defeat that would destroy their loved ones for good.

I volunteer, if I perish, I perish.After all, the point of the Hunger Games is not really about crowning a victor. It’s about reminding the residents of Panem who holds the power. It’s the Capitol saying every year, “we hold the power of life and death over your children – and by extension over you.” For Katniss, as a resident  of one of the poorest districts, where any skills that might save her aren’t taught until adulthood, the odds of surviving even the first few days are not in her favor

  • Yet Katniss volunteers.
  • And once in the arena Katniss fights.

Esther is a Jewish orphan being raised by a relative. Decades earlier the Israelites had been defeated and carted off into exile by the massive Persian nation. The Persians were somewhat enlightened. They didn’t really care who or what people chose to worship – as long as it didn’t disrupt their peace. The Jewish people knew they had been defeated because they had turned their backs on God. In exile, as a people, they kept their heads down, worked hard and returned to the roots of their faith.

Yet, through extraordinary turn of events that almost resembles an American Idol season, Esther is selected to compete and wins the throne of the reecently deposed queen. She is, possibly  for the first time in her life, secure – until turning political wheels threaten the lives of every Jew under Persian rule. If the Jews are to survive Esther must risk her life, appearing before her husband, the king, without being summoned. If he is even slightly annoyed with her presence she will be put to death.

  • Esther is challenged to think about the reason she was raised to power
  • Accepting the challenge as an appointment from God, Esther choses to fight.

I have always loved the story of Esther, a beautiful girl is plucked from obscurity, becomes a queen, and saves a people. Perhaps this is why Katniss’ story resonated with me. I already knew the framework.

You know what is most annoying about a good story? It is the question that lingers when it’s done. Esther and Katniss both linger. They ask me what I am going to do. What am I doing to do about the little things: the litter on my street, the neighbor kids who need someplace safe to play, convenient versus healthy foods?

And then there are the really big questions. What am I doing to improve my neighborhood? My town? My state? My world? Am I really considering how my actions affect other people near and far?

Do I have what it takes to face the president or the king and stand up for what is right?

What about you? What challenges make you willing to stand up?

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