Living in a world where women are much too used to looking for love in all the wrong places, Saint Gianna Beretta Molla offers women an example of genuine love that can only be found in the most profound of actions. Most of us will never experience the complete self-sacrifice of another on our behalf, though many have been deeply touched by Gianna’s selfless legacy.
“If I am afraid to speak the truth lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, ‘You do not understand’, or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other's highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”
“I did not ask myself, Should I do this? But, How will I do this? Every step of my childhood had brought me to this crossroad; I must take the right path, or I would no longer be myself.”
-- Irene Gut Opdyke, In My Hands
Irene Gut was a nursing student in Radom, Poland when Germany and Russia invaded in September 1939. What could one teenage girl do in her situation? Her memoir, In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer answers: opportunities to do good presented themselves, and she took them.
What greater purpose could our lives have than to serve others in need? For Lyn Lusi, that would have been a rhetorical question. As a young woman in her early twenties, she set off for the Congo with the Baptist Missionary Society, to work as a teacher. She met a Congalese physician, Dr. Jo Lusi, fell in love and married him in 1974. From that time on, until her passing in 2012, she rarely left the Congo, having overcome the initial shock of being immersed in such a different culture than her childhood home in southeast England, to fully embrace her new country.
Everyone knows that good parents put the needs of their children before their own wants, feelings and desires. It’s the reason why many claim that parenthood taught (or forced) them to become less selfish people. There is an obligation to act in the best interests of your child, even if it requires certain sacrifices on behalf of the parents.
The immense suffering of the Cambodian people in the last century has often created conditions where ordinary people act in selfish and cruel ways. At the same time it has created many opportunities for ordinary people to become heroes. Aki Ra was born in the midst of the Cambodian genocide, raised in extreme poverty and manipulated by numerous adults to participate in horrific acts of war, but at the first opportunity, he chose to spend his life correcting some of the dangers that he helped create as a child soldier.
Sam Berns was 17 years old, a junior in high school, with big dreams to study biology in university. This past week, he passed away from a very rare illness called Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome. This condition is so rare that only about 100 children are recorded as currently living with it today, although the real number might be closer to 300. It causes symptoms that look like rapid aging, and death typically occurs from complications of heart disease, the same as those which are the leading cause of death for seniors. However, most children with progeria pass away from heart disease complications at about age 13.
One of two entire communities to be named to as Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel, the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, has been honored with the title to recognize its role as a safe haven for Jewish people persecuted by the Nazis in World War II. A large number of the citizens of Le Chambon were members of the Huguenot Church, a much persecuted branch of the Protestant Reformed Church of France. Perhaps due to their own history of persecution, as well as their firm belief in the power of God, an estimated 3000-5000 Jewish people were protected from the Nazis by the resistance of the people in this small French community.
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” – Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
We may never have to face a rabid dog or a murderous mob, but we will all have moments, large or small, when our convictions require us to go against what is commonplace, comfortable, or convenient. This is why Atticus Finch is so many people’s hero, fictional though he may be.
In To Kill a Mockingbird we see a man who values what is right over what is easy, and who strives to teach his children to do the same.
In the summer of 1940, Chiune Sugihara was one of the last foreign diplomats remaining in Kaunas, Lithuania. Most had followed the Soviet Union's encouragement to leave as the German army drew closer. Sugihara, the Japanese consul, had extended his stay. He and his family remained.
Kaunas had a large Jewish population, and many Jewish refugees from Poland were also staying there. With German occupation impending, they needed to leave. A plan was devised: they could go to two Dutch-colonized islands, Curacao and Dutch Guiana. Dutch consul Jan Zwartendijk had permission to stamp their passports for entrance.