My friend Dave got tired of wearing glasses. But if he didn't, he was dangerous. After consulting with a specialist, he determined that he was a candidate for this Lasik eye surgery. During the procedure, a laser beam was aimed at the parts of his eye that limited his vision and the light of that laser changed everything. Guess who doesn't need glasses anymore? All because of the power of focused light.
I think my fascination started at a historic old life-saving station on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was there that I learned about the heroism of those crews who once manned those life-saving stations all along the maritime Atlantic coast. Their heroism actually gave birth to what we know today as the United States Coast Guard. Their motto says it all: "So others may live." Some of that modern-day heroism was portrayed in a movie called "The Guardian." It's a story about that elite group of 280 men and women who are known as rescue swimmers - the first responders who jump from choppers into violent seas to rescue people who otherwise would die there. In the movie, a veteran rescuer shows a film of a burning ship from which he helped to rescue some desperate crewmen. He frames the essence of their mission in some sobering words: "They're looking for a miracle to save them. You have to find a way to be that miracle."
It's happened too often. I've seen it a lot but I guess I remember this one in particular. Flags flying at half-staff, national leaders pausing for a moment of silence at the White House, on the Capitol steps, and even seasoned news reporters that day struggled with the pain and anguish of these devastating moments when a mall parking lot suddenly became a killing field.
The heart rending toll of a lone gunman's rampage. It was in Tucson, Arizona. Six people dead, 14 others wounded. And then in that Tucson hospital, Representative Gabrielle Giffords, apparently the intended target, battled for her life with a critical head wound.
As horrific as the losses were, thank God she recovered to some extent, we now know that there could have been many more. When the shots began, as often happens, the everyday heroes stepped up.
We love it when we hear those stories in the news about ordinary people who come upon someone in danger and they risk their own lives to save them. And then there's the kind of story that came from Mount Everest some years ago. A British mountaineer became desperate for oxygen on his descent from that mountain. And you know, it is a legendary mountain. Ultimately, he collapsed along a well-traveled route to the summit. He was dying. And more than 40 climbers are thought to have seen him as he lay dying, and they passed him by. He died there of oxygen deficiency. But you know what? He sure didn't have to die.
Before D. L. Moody became the greatest evangelist of the 19th Century, he ran a storefront Sunday School to reach some of the street kids of Chicago. The story is told of one tough little guy who was seen on Sunday after Sunday, trudging by on his way to that Sunday School. He lived a long way from his destination. Well, on one brutally cold and snowy Chicago day, one man saw the boy walking into the wind, stubbornly making his usual Sunday morning journey to Moody's Sunday School. He asked the boy why he would make that effort every Sunday, even on a day when no one else was out, especially when he passed by a lot of churches that were a lot closer to his home. The boy's explanation was pretty clear and pretty simple, "I go there Mister, because they really make a fellow feel loved there."
My Dad worked to make the money for our family, so my Dad decided where we went on vacation - fishing. Now some people would consider that a dream vacation, but the high-energy, ten-year-old me? No, I didn't think so. After just a little while, I was complaining. I was bored, but of course we kept fishing. Did I mention that my Dad made the money? Well, actually, we did have a good catch there and they were good eating. Catching them was fun. Eating them was fun. In between, there was this one step that was less fun - cleaning them. But for that fish to realize its culinary destiny, it had to be cleaned.
It started out like just another day driving a school bus for Ponderosa Elementary. But that night, Kevin McKay would be hailed as "the bus driver from heaven." In between, came the most deadly wildfire in California's history.
On the morning of November 8, McKay had just dropped off his students when he saw the smoke. Ten minutes later, the evacuation order. Ultimately - and quickly - you know, the entire community would be consumed by flames. Most parents made it to the school to quickly pick up their child. But as the fire was, in McKay's words, "coming down in a thousand places," there were 22 children still left at the school.
Each season in the U.S. seems to bring its beauty and its unique dangers. In the spring, think tornado, for example. In the summer and fall, some of us know what the word hurricane is all about. In the mountains in winter, it's important to be aware that that season's snowy beauty may also bring with it the danger of deadly avalanches. Every winter, we hear about some people who lose their lives as these massive chunks of snow suddenly break loose and roar down the mountain. But every once in a while, we hear about lives being saved. I remember a few years ago, the rescuers were there not long after an avalanche, and they immediately started digging for survivors. In minutes, they pulled out one skier who was not only grateful to be saved, but in remarkably good shape for what he had been through. And the news reported that after that man was rescued, he didn't just head for a warm place to recover. He actually joined the rescuers, working side by side with them to save other lives. And they did!
My wife and her family were out for a swim in a nearby river. They had invited their pastor to go with them. He was pretty much a pool swimmer - a lake swimmer. He was unfamiliar with the river currents that can make swimming a little more challenging than usual. Pastor wasn't aware of the whirlpool in that water near the bluffs that overlooked the river. He got too close, and suddenly he got sucked into that swirling water. Their pastor was in serious trouble. And since everyone was swimming, they didn't immediately see the danger he was in. He'd already gone down twice when he finally managed to get off one yell for help. My father-in-law responded immediately and he went in for the rescue, and he saved his pastor's life that day.
Our son had the privilege of playing on a state championship football team in high school. And that's a really big deal! They were the toast of the school, heroes of the town, for a while, until next year. Some of those heroes came back from college to visit the old alma mater, and you know what? They just weren't a big deal anymore. Some new guys were the ones wearing the jerseys now and getting all the attention. Sorry, guys! Last year's glory - yesterday's news. What do you bet those guys will still be looking for someone to tell about the big game when they're 70 years old?