Are we not all human? Would you save another regardless of their faith? These are hard questions to ask ourselves. Some of us rather not even go to that place in our hearts. If faced with that situation, most likely you would not think about disparate religions--you would act with compassion to save another. The story that you will read could change your perception.
In the middle of the night, the Dorchester was moving through the icy North Atlantic about 200 miles off the coast of Greenland during World War II when a German torpedo shredded the ship, sinking the 900 men on board. There was mass hysteria on board as the men wrestled in the dark to find lifeboats and life jackets. When the life jackets ran out 4 chaplains gave it others so they would live on February 3, 1943. The Rev. Clark Poling was from the Reformed Church of America, Father John Washington was Catholic, Rabbi Alexander Goode and Methodist Rev. George Fox decided together that they were going to die. These brave souls faced death and served humanity regardless of another person's race, creed, ethnicity or religious beliefs. There were over 500 men who died on that frigid night, but there are those who were saved due to the bravery of 4 men. Here is what we can learn from the chaplains who paid the ultimate price.
Self-SacrificeThe Dorchester was sunk without warning from a torpedo that ripped the gut of the ship open. “Witnesses of that terrible night remember hearing the four men offer prayers for the dying and encouragement for those who would live,” says Wyatt R. Fox, son of Reverend Fox explained. Self-sacrifice is something of a novelty in society. We are about self-preservation. In a life or death situation wouldn't you want to focus on survival? On a smaller scale, we can do something of this nature daily by putting others first. This can be as simple as allowing a person in front of you in line at the store or giving your time and resources to another.
Making a DifferenceJohn Ladd was a survivor on that horrific night. He recalled that he never witnessed or experienced such sacrifice. “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven,” Ladd said regarding the incident. Making a difference is something we hear a lot about, but sometimes it has no teeth. The reason is there is no action behind it. We may want to do something, but put it off. We can start a chain reaction to make a real difference in the lives of others. Make a difference by lifting up and showing compassion to someone you don't know. The thing is to get our minds off ourselves. When we start, people will see this and do it themselves.
Overcome DivisionsPresident Harry S. Truman honored the men and talked that no matter what their beliefs were, they realized that we are all part of the human race. “This interfaith shrine will stand through long generations to teach Americans that as men can die heroically as brothers so should they live together in mutual faith and goodwill.” Who cares what your faith is. Faith doesn't' need to be a great divider of us in our country. People have killed and do kill in the name of faith. Guess what? Nothing changes. Violence is violence. Goodwill is goodwill. Being heroic is being heroic. Any kind of violence or hate over religion is hypocritical. Most religions teach peace, temperance and love. This is how we overcome division.
Stand TogetherWhen we increase our knowledge of another faith, we reduce prejudice. The chaplains removed their life jackets and gave them to others when the supply ran out and they knew the consequences. Yet, they insisted that they remain behind. When we tackle a common problem, we are stronger. Author Eboo Patel, who started the #ChangeTheStory campaign to help make interfaith discussions more common on college campuses said it best. "I thought about the meaning of pluralism in a world where the forces that seek to divide us are strong. I came to one conclusion: We have to save each other. It’s the only way to save ourselves.” We might not save someone's life, but we can unite on the critical issues facing our world like poverty, violence and hate.
Serve OthersJohn J. Mahoney was another survivor and recounted his memory of Rabbi Goode. Before heading to the lifeboats Mahoney headed for his quarters. Rabbi Goode interceded and asked where he was going. The soldier told him that he needed his gloves. The Rabbi told Mahoney not to waste time and offered his own gloves because he had another pair. According to historians, Rabbi Goode knew he was going down with the ship as he didn't have another pair of gloves for the cold water. Another survivor attested how this changed him. "I was raised in a neighborhood where Jews didn't speak to Catholics and neither Catholics nor Jews spoke to Baptists. I was amazed to see that these chaplains had so much in common. To see them enjoying one another's company was a lesson to me in ecumenism long before that word became popular," James McAtamney told the Guidepost. Serve others by examining your talents and blessings. When you do, you never know how you might change a person's life.
February is the month of the Super Bowl and it is stiff competition to the men that saved so many lives. The overarching theme for us is doing soul some searching on whether we allow our religion to get in the way of serving humanity the best way that we can. We have 1 trip on earth to do this, so make it count for something, just like our heroes did on the Dorchester.