Day 47, April 29, 2020
The Holocaust was a particularly terrible component of a World War that was filled with the terrible and devastating loss of life. And yet with the terror there were countless examples of bravery from those who affirmed the importance and dignity of human life in a time when so many lives were lost. Oskar Schindler’s heroism was captured in the novel and the movie of the same name, “Schindler’s List.” As Schindler saved more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees by employing them in his factories, both the book and the movie refer to a single sentence that is attributed to the Talmud. “He who saves one life saves the entire world.”
When more than 6,000,000 Jews died in the Holocaust, it takes a deep faith to believe that saving one life compares in any way to such staggering loss. And yet, saving one life does make an incredible difference. We worship the one who said if a shepherd has one hundred sheep and one of those sheep becomes lost, the shepherd will leave the ninety-nine in the fold and go off in search of the one that is lost. And when that one lost sheep is found there is great rejoicing among the angels in heaven. One matters. One makes a difference.
New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo became emotional on a recent broadcast. He read a letter from a farmer in Kansas. The farmer, a man named Dennis, wrote that his wife Sharon was sick, but that the two of them wanted to pitch in however they could during the crisis.
“Dear Mr. Cuomo, I seriously doubt that you will ever read this letter as I know you are busy beyond belief with a disaster that has befallen our country. We currently…are a nation in crisis, of that there is no doubt. I’m a retired farmer hunkered down in N.E. Kansas with my wife who has but one lung and occasional problems with her remaining lung. She also has diabetes. We are in our 70s now and frankly I am afraid for her. Enclosed find a solitary N-95 mask left over from my farming days. It has never been used. If you could, would you please give this mask to a nurse or doctor in your city. I have kept four masks for my immediate family. Please keep on doing what you do so well, which is to lead.” (From People.com, April 24, 2020, Benjamin VanHoose)
We are currently approaching one million people in our nation who have become ill with the Covid-19 virus, and somewhere close to 60,000 have died. Those numbers must be the focus of this great tragedy. One million infected, 60,000 dead, those are crucial numbers. But so is the number one. One mask. One person. One phone call. One meal. One touch. One tear. One smile. One hug. One…one…one. As a broken world dug its way out of the rubble of WWII the number one emerged as an important number. “He who saves one life saves the entire world.”
During a crisis that pales in comparison to the scope of WWII or the Coronavirus pandemic, a little four-year old girl moved with her family from Fresno, California to Houston, Texas. Her dad was a pastor and he had received a call to a new church. The little girl landed in Houston in February and found that the middle of the school year was not an easy time to make friends at her new preschool. For her, and for her anxious parents that was a significant crisis. We were the anxious parents. Carlee was our four-year old daughter. For the first two weeks that we were in Houston we stayed at the home of Linda and Phil Johnson. With all the hubbub surrounding our move it was easy to miss the struggles Carlee was having. Linda did not miss the signals that Carlee was struggling. Linda took Carlee under her wing. After two weeks we moved into our own home. As the time came to move out of the house belonging to Linda and Phil Johnson and into our own home, Carlee climbed onto Linda’s lap and they snuggled together one final time before the move. Wrapped in the loving embrace of Linda’s arms, Carlee announced to our whole family, “Linda is my BFF.” Carlee said that Linda was her Best Friend Forever. In that moment, although Carlee’s crisis was not on the scale of a World War or a worldwide pandemic, it sure seemed to us that the wisdom of the Jewish Proverb rang true, “He who saves one life saves the entire world.”
That was February of 1995. Fast forward to September of 2019 when Carlee was getting married to Nate Bickley in Portland, Oregon. I had the privilege and the honor of officiating at the wedding. Early in the ceremony I stepped aside and invited a dear family friend to come forward. This dear family friend slowly and quietly made her way to the center of the ceremony. With great dignity this dear family friend read a passage the bride and groom had selected. The one who came forward to read was Linda Johnson. Carlee contacted Linda Johnson and asked her BFF of nearly 25 years if she would read during the wedding. One. One does not take away from the thousands and the millions. Those numbers matter. But one can be the number that helps us make some sense of those thousands and millions.
One. Have you noticed that important number during the crisis? When Governor Cuomo read about one face mask, my mind went to the many ways people have used that important number one to reach out with kindness, with concern, with compassion, and with care. I believe that ancient saying is true: “He who saves one life saves the entire world.” I believe that ancient saying is true, and I want to thank you for being the type of people, and the type of community, and the type of church that cares about that number, the number one.
With the love of Christ,