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How much sacrifice is required to truly make a difference today?
The Talmud – the ancient book of Jewish law and theology says: “He who saves the life of one man saves the entire world.”
I have always been inspired by that famous quote. Save one life, and it’s as good as saving the whole world. Sweet. So, when I pulled a Lego out of my (then) three-year-old’s mouth, I was immediately on par with any Marvel superhero. Right?
Well, not really.
I’m pretty certain the ancient scholars were not referring to my son swallowing a Lego Baby Yoda. Upon further reflection, I believe the 4th-century text was intended as a lesson in sacrifice and risk, sticking your neck out to help someone else in need.
I’ve been reminded of this multiple times during the past eight months witnessing the heroic actions of friends who are police officers, doctors, nurses all unselfishly working to help those of us in need. We applaud them, salute them, even buy em’ coffee. But me spending five dollars on a latte, isn’t much of a sacrifice. Truth be told, it’s like pulling that lego out of my son’s mouth. It’s the least I could do.
So, how do I do my part? I’ve thought about this a lot as the father of three beautiful boys and a Siberian Husky (purchased not sired) who I have a responsibility to pass on my moral code to.
With Veterans Day here, I think I see a way. My grandfather, a card-carrying member of the greatest generation, earned a Bronze Star for his heroics as part of a 10-man platoon sent to rescue 500 hundred French civilians in the middle of the night while being bombarded by German artillery. He never spoke of it, deflecting any talk of heroism as, “simple survival.”
Later, at the close of the war, he and a fellow G.I. rescued 450 Jewish women and girls, “skeletons with heads,” he recalled, the last survivors of what were once 5,000 human beings sent on a death march to hide the atrocities of the Nazis. While 300 of these poor souls would, “die in our arms,” 150 lived to create future generations.
Add that up, and it means by Talmudic standards he saved the world a minimum, 650 times. All the Justice League combined hasn’t done that. Amazingly, his story is far from unique. Throughout history the American G.I. has always and continues to sacrifice to save one single life after another, always in foreign lands. Men, women, all creeds and colors. It’s done by units like my grandfather’s 10-man platoon, which put aside political, personal and religious differences for the greater good of humanity.
It’s the most honorable thing Americans have ever done.
And yet today, so many Americans, myself included, have forgotten that and focus instead on the petty arguments of day-to-day life. We are quick to argue with friends, family, strangers over Instagram posts, Twitter feeds or (pick your favorite) social media posts. We are a culture obsessed with “gotcha moments” and proving others wrong to satisfy our own egos and sense of self-importance.
This Veterans Day, I’m paying honor to all those who have bravely served and sacrificed by promoting the greatest of all American attributes, the ability to put differences aside and work together. Embracing opposing views, accepting that by agreeing to disagree we can begin to heal the great divide that runs much deeper than Red vs. Blue.
Being quiet and just listening may not be enough of a sacrifice to save the whole world, but at least it’s a start. And this year, I’m going to risk it.
Academy Award winner Robert Port is the director of RECON, a World War II film releasing for Veteran’s Day and marking the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe.