ABC’s Nightline told the story of Wesley Autrey who rescued a total stranger from being killed by a Manhatten subway train in January 2007. Wesley had his two small daughters with him, but when he saw 19-year-old Cameron Hollopeter fall on the tracks because of an apparent seizure, he jumped into action. Cameron was jerking and swinging his arms wildly, so Wesley couldn’t lift him back up on the loading platform, but the train was approaching quickly. Instinctively, this Viet Nam veteran knew exactly what to do. He pinned Cameron down, held him still and covered him with his own body, between the tracks — just in time for the train to pass safely over them. They were so close to being hit that Wesley felt some part of the train nick the hat he was wearing. In the interview, Wesley said, “I don’t want this thing to be blown out of proportion. I just saved a man’s life and it was worth saving.”
The program also told the story of a soldier in Iraq who purposely fell on a detonated grenade and died to save two comrades. The brother of this hero was interviewed and said he was sure his brother did it because he knew his fellow soldiers were married with children.
We can’t read or hear either of these stories without asking ourselves if we would be so heroic. In such a split second decision which determines life or death, what would go through our minds? Could we be so unselfish? Fortunately, most of us won’t be put in such a quandary, but we can be inspired by both stories to meet lesser challenges with a higher purpose. Who of us will not be tempted even today to steer the conversation to our advantage? To avoid the inconvenience that serving others might work on our schedule? To find an excuse for satisfying a selfish desire or addiction? The list of selfish choices we make each day is endless, but Jesus called us to live for others. To love them as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). Paul instructed, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
When we do, we imitate the heart and life…and death of Jesus Himself. Wesley could save only one man. The soldier could save two, but all three will die, eventually. Jesus, uniquely sinless and uniquely unselfish, can eternally save us all. At least as many of us as will allow Him to hold us still and cover us.
Article copyright (c) 2009 by Charles G. Mickey. All rights reserved.