Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In Part 1, I opened up the topic by asking the question, Can you make a difference? Well, the answer is yes, we can all make a difference. We can think about important people in history that have made a difference. But there’s something that we can all do and we can make a difference.
When we face a task that appears overwhelming, we may pull back from attempting to climb that particular mountain. Whether it’s artistic, social, environmental, financial or personal, when we face a problem we may feel powerless to make a difference if it appears too big.
It is then we need to realise that taking small steps, even seemingly insignificant deeds can add up. Taking small steps can make the difference in our own lives and in the lives of others. Doing what we can with what we have can make a difference if we continue on continuing on.
Step by step. Insignificant. Seemingly without a difference.
The Legacy of Nicholas Winton
Back in 2009, 22 people travelled to London to thank Nicholas Winton. They could have passed for a retirement-home social club. All were in their seventies or eighties. More grey hair than not. More shuffling steps than quick ones. But this was no social trip. It was a journey of gratitude.
They came to thank the man who had saved their lives: a stooped old man who met them on a train platform just as he had in 1939. He was a 29-year-old stockbroker at the time. Hitler’s armies were ravaging the nation of Czechoslovakia, tearing Jewish families apart and marching parents to concentration camps. No-one was caring for the children.
Winton got wind of their plight and resolved to help them. He used his vacation to travel to Prague, where he met parents who, incredibly, were willing to entrust their children’s future to his care. After returning to England, he worked his regular job on the stock exchange by day and advocated for the children at night. He convinced Great Britain to permit their entry. He found foster homes and raised funds. Then he scheduled his first transport on March 14, 1939, and accomplished seven more over the next five months. His last trainload of children arrived on August 2, bringing the total of rescued children to 669.
On September 1, the most significant transport was to take place, but Hitler invaded Poland, and Germany closed borders throughout Europe. None of the 250 children on that train were seen again.
After the war, Winton didn’t tell anyone of his rescue efforts, not even his wife. In 1988 she found a scrapbook in their attic with all the children’s photos and a complete list of names. She prodded him to tell the story. As he did that, rescued children have returned to say thank you.
“Save one life. Save the world.” (Teaching in the Jewish Talmud)
The grateful group includes a film director, a Canadian journalist, a news correspondent, a former minister in the British cabinet, a magazine manager, and one of the founders of the Israeli Air Force. There are some seven thousand children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who owe their existence to Winton’s bravery. He wore a ring given to him by some of the children he saved. It bears a line from the Talmud, the book of Jewish law: “Save one life. Save the world.”
Mother Teresa was shy and introverted as a child and of fragile health. One of three children, the daughter of a generous but unremarkable businessman. Yet, somewhere along her journey, she became convinced that Jesus walked in the “distressing disguise of the poor,” and she set out to love him by loving them. In 1989 she told a reporter that her missionaries had picked up around 54,000 people from the streets of Calcutta and that 23,000 or so had died in their care. I wonder if God creates people like Mother Teresa so he can prove his point: See, you can do something today that will outlive your life.
We can make a difference if we have the right priorities. That’s faith in God and love for people. A simple message, but very profound and life-changing.