Unexpected courage and strength in an emergency

A Christian Science perspective: Where do the desire, courage, and strength needed to help others in an emergency come from?

It’s significant that those who rise to the level of heroic courage and strength in challenging circumstances often do not consider themselves heroes. Some of the brave people who were at the scene of the January shooting in Tucson, Ariz., and who came to the rescue in the face of severe danger to themselves, said they didn’t want to be called special or heroic.

People might see that reserve of strength to help as mere instinct. Or the result of specialized training enabling one to respond immediately without going through a decisionmaking process. Military personnel, for example, and law-enforcement officers are trained to act quickly and effectively.

People don’t often encounter events like the one in Tucson. But we all come upon people in need at one time or another. And the reserve of strength for some who feel untrained, or who may not think they have the natural instinct to face danger or come to the rescue, can be cultivated. Trust and love of God can empower people on a deep level – and reveal reserves of strength that don’t appear under ordinary circumstances. That strength and selfless kindness is still present, ready to be put into action when the occasion demands. Perhaps it’s like pressing the accelerator pedal to the floor when there is a sudden demand for power and speed. We may not access that power often, but it’s still there when needed.

The human heart has a natural desire to help others that comes alive when the need arises. It’s always inspiring to see accounts on the evening news of those individuals who are able to perform deeds of kindness above and beyond the call of duty in daily life. They see the need and respond with an extra measure of compassion, resourcefulness, and brotherly love.

Along these lines, we can each pray to understand better that God is good and that God is infinite Love, ever present and ever able to give us the compassion and ability to help others. Just as we would want quick assistance if needed, so we can give that quick assistance and strength to others, when necessary.

Once when I was serving in the military, I saw an example of this. I’d had a few weeks of basic training, although the bulk of my training was classroom oriented. The primary focus had nothing to do with combat or dangerous situations, and my work was to sit at a desk and be engaged in technical information gathering. It was “head work” and did not demand quick physical responses.

One day as I was driving away from the base, a motorcyclist was coming toward me extremely fast around a sharp curve. The biker suddenly slid off the road, flipped through the air, and landed in the ditch very close to my car. I leaped out of the car and jumped into the ditch. Even though I hadn’t been trained to do so, I quickly released his helmet strap. I did what I could to make the semiconscious man comfortable, including speaking to him with as much reassurance and support as I could. It happened so fast that I noticed the motorcycle wheel still spinning a few feet away. In the meantime, another passing motorist went to call an ambulance. Help came very soon. Grateful for the help I’d given the biker, one of the emergency professionals said he felt this man was going to be all right.

I was grateful for what I’d been learning in my daily study of Christian Science, that God is an ever-present help, giving me the ability to experience and express good, whatever the circumstances. And to know that that understanding can be an immediate and practical help when the need arises.

Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote, “My faith in God and in His followers rests in the fact that He is infinite good, and that He gives His followers opportunity to use their hidden virtues, to put into practice the power which lies concealed in the calm and which storms awaken to vigor and to victory” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany.” p. 204).

Divine Love gives us the strength and opportunity to use our “hidden virtues.” This makes us all heroes even if we don’t think of ourselves that way. The point is, God enables us to put that divine power into practice without delay because God, divine Love, is ever-present.

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