“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15: 13).
As we approach the anniversary of 9/11 this Friday, I thought it would be appropriate to share a story from that day. Most all of us have heard courageous stories of firefighters running into broken buildings and clouds of dust to rescue innocent people; however, this legacy took place at sea. When the Twin Towers collapsed, survivors were immediately reminded that Manhattan was an island. Dust and rubble mushroomed out like an atomic explosion, and there was absolutely nowhere else to go but to the water’s edge. Chaos set in. People began jumping into the water to escape. That was when hundreds of boat captains about Manhattan were set in motion to rescue.
They were not professional heroes by trade, and they certainly weren’t trained for this. But they showed up to cram as many people as possible on their boats. Party boats, tug boats, fishing boats—anything that was able to move on water—they all combined their forces together and took part in the daring rescue attempt. As one boat captain was quoted, “Everyone helped everyone.” Husbands were reunited with wives. Gratitude spilled out from the survivors, and there was nothing that could be said other than thank you. The boats spray painted their destinations to their sides and left. Again and again they returned for more. By the end of nine hours, an unfathomable amount of people had been saved: nearly 500,000.
Ordinary people. Called for something they knew was right. Moral. Something that would leave a legacy. When push came to shove, they sacrificed their own safety to save the lives of others. It reminds me of another story that took place with Jesus’ disciples. Think about it. Christ didn’t call out the most important people in the world to spread his legacy. He chose ordinary men. Fishermen. Tax collectors. Ordinary Joes that dropped everything, leaving the comfort of their lives. Without question, without reservation, they denied themselves, took up their crosses, and followed (Matthew 16: 24). It all boils down to a selfless sacrifice where you look out for others more than yourself.
Paul gets it right when he says, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2: 4). This sacrifice is epitomized through the boat captains, through the disciples, and without a doubt by—you guessed it—teachers. What do we as teachers sacrifice? We sacrifice time, grading papers until our eyes are bloodshot red. We give up the comfort of a respectable income in order to make a difference in the life of a child. We sacrifice time to watch our students perform in sports, plays, and concerts. We don’t just teach. We inspire. We make students believe. And when they say they can’t, we show them they can. We change lives. One at a time.
If you think you don’t matter, you do. When you think you’re not getting through, you are. I need to be reminded of that more than anyone. There are times when I feel like I am spinning my wheels, just going through the motions and not making the impact I should. But God uses ordinary people all the time to accomplish phenomenal feats. From the disciples, to the boat captains … to you. Ordinary people called to something higher. Doing it all for the glory of God.
(To see the amazing story of the 9-11 boatlift, check out the link below.)