He was in Singapore when he got word of a massive earthquake in the Indian Ocean and the possibility of a killer tsunami that could be headed for land; land that included his own village in India. He knew what he had to do. Desperately, he tried to reach his family there by means of a cell phone, and they answered. He warned them about the approaching danger, and they in turn warned the entire village of some 150 people. Within minutes they all were headed for high ground. The tsunami did hit that village full force. The homes were destroyed, the boats were destroyed, but every single person from that village survived.
As a New York Knicks basketball fan, I've had some victories and some play-off games to cheer for. But, oh yeah, I've had my share of disappointments. And too many of them came at the hands of one particular opponent some years ago when we were living in the New York area. It was a player named Reggie Miller. He had done more to stop my team than just about anybody I could think of because something happened to this man in a close game, when there was suddenly just a minute or two left. He was like on fire! He may or may not have had lots of points earlier in the game, but somehow – boom! - save your best for last. With time running out, Reggie suddenly became a scoring machine, making fantastic shots, often scoring enough points to send my team home for the season. Any player is a powerful force when he knows the end is near and lights up to make a difference!
I haven't bought a baseball bat for a while, but I know you can buy one that's cheap and may not last long or one that costs a little more and last longer. But a million-dollar baseball bat? That's a little out of my price range. And lest you think I've lost it, not long ago a massive 46-ounce Louisville Slugger bat sold at auction for $1.26 million dollars! What in the world could possibly make a simple baseball bat worth that much to anyone? Who used it. It was the bat used by Babe Ruth in the first baseball game in the new Yankee Stadium in 1923. In the third inning, the Babe blasted a home run right into the right field bleachers, and somebody just laid down over a million bucks for the bat he used.
It started out as an unimpressive ripple in the weather off the coast of Africa. By the time it was over, it had become Hurricane Katrina, pummeling Florida as a category one storm, then surprising most observers by becoming a category five monster over the Gulf of Mexico. Katrina's last minute shift to the east nearly destroyed the city of New Orleans. Yes, we saw some of the darkest side of human nature as people looted things that they didn't really need, and some even tried to shoot some of the very people who were coming to help. But on a much greater scale, the aftermath to Hurricane Katrina was a massive outpouring of heroism in many flavors.
As Americans learned of the desperation of the victims of the storm, thousands of us mobilized to give them a chance to live. We won't soon forget the military helicopters, launching and re-launching every fifteen minutes to look for more people stranded in the toxic floodwaters that buried parts of the city. There were those memorable scenes of the rescuers coming down the rope from those choppers to save people trapped on their roofs. Doctors and nurses came from all over the country. So many came and did what they knew how to do-from cooking, to counseling, to contributing, to caring enough to take in whole families because lives were at stake.
Over the years, I've had the privilege of meeting a lot of men and women who work in law enforcement and man do I appreciate and respect them. Some of them have helped out with security at events where I've spoken. In one city, I met some pretty impressive guys who worked on a SWAT team; those guys were sent in as rapid assault teams in those particularly dangerous situations. Bobby was one of them. They called him "The Slammer." Sounds like someone from the World Wrestling Federation. But they call Bobby that because he's the one who takes out the door when they're raiding a residence. And looking at how he's built (I mean, I think his arm is bigger than my waist) you can see they picked the right man for the job. If you want a door removed, "he da man!"
Spring was planting time on the little farm my wife, Karen, grew up on. And in her early years, that was no small job. Her Granddad actually would hitch up Betsy and Jack-who I thought might have been her cousins but actually Betsy and Jack are mules-and they would start plowing that hard, Ozark ground. Karen would follow behind in her bare feet as Granddad and his team turned up that dirt, broke up those big dirt clods, and smoothed out that broken soil. Then came the seeding…and then the waiting. At that point, it was pretty much up to God-the weather, the warmth, the moisture, and the sunlight. Then, when the corn finally matured, Granddad swung into action again with the big work of harvesting what God had grown. It was really a neat balance of what a man could do and what only God could do.
Back in the day, millions of Americans visited the emergency room once a week - well, on television. That was a blockbuster TV hit called "ER" and it very convincingly took its viewers into the tension and crisis environment of a hospital emergency room. They kind of made you feel like you were there. Of course, they're not the only medical personnel involved in a crisis care situation. I was reminded of that the other day on the interstate as this ambulance passed us. Of course, the back has those big red letters: "AMBULANCE." But this particular ambulance had sort of a subtitle - the one that raised my eyebrows and made me smile. The whole sign on the back said, "ambulance - the real emergency room." OK!
Jessica's all grown up now. She almost didn't make it past eighteen months. You might even remember when, as a curious toddler, little Jessica fell down a deep shaft in her aunt's backyard in Midland, Texas. The shaft was far too narrow for any rescuer to go down, and she was wedged in a position that virtually immobilized her. If you remember that incident, it's because we all watched the drama unfold on television for three nerve-wracking days. By the time it was over, Jessica was like America's little girl! When the rescuers realized there was no easy way, no conventional way to save little Jessica, they devised a whole new way of getting it done: by digging a wider shaft parallel to the one she was trapped in, and then a tunnel connecting those two shafts. That's pretty ingenious! Finally, a rescuer was lowered into that second shaft. Minutes later, we smiled and we cheered as the rescuer emerged from that shaft with an armful of Jessica, holding onto him for dear life.
I once spoke for a large youth conference at one of the East Coast's most popular vacation spots: Ocean City, Maryland. The boardwalk, the hotels, the restaurants, the amusements seem to stretch for miles there. My friend told me he'd been coming to Ocean City since the 1970s, when most of what I was seeing wasn't there. Not that many folks used to come to Ocean City at all. I asked my friend what changed that. He said, "Oh, the bridge". The building of what is called the Bay Bridge opened up this beautiful spot to many people who literally had never experienced it before.
At first, they were frightened even bruised faces appearing on Iraqi TV. Early in the Iraq War, there were seven American soldiers and pilots who had been captured by Saddam Hussein's forces and then they were paraded on television for all the world to see. After that, none of us could be sure whether they were hurt or healthy, or dead or alive. Since then there have been way too many scenes like that. Retreating enemy soldiers informed American troops of the place where these particular POWs were being held. As the heavily armed soldiers burst into the room, they first shouted for everyone to lie down on the floor. And then, they yelled out an unmistakable command: "If you're an American, stand up!" Seven prisoners stood up, and they were free.