Dictionary.com defines 'Salvation' as the following: Preservation or deliverance from destruction, difficulty, or evil; A source, means, or cause of such preservation or deliverance; Deliverance from the power or penalty of sin; redemption; and The agent or means that brings about such deliverance.
Of late, I've been thinking a lot about salvation. More to the point, the idea of salvation. Ask anyone, and they'll probably tell you salvation is the idea of saving someone from something bad- just a simplified version of any o fthe above statements. I think we all have some idea or concept of what salvation means to us; many are familiar with the religious concept of Salvation- 'Deliver us, Lord, from every evil'. Christ came down to earth with the idea of saving all of humanity. Maybe not a literal saving of our physical existence, but 'saving our souls'- one would imagine the greatest idea of salvation. Another way of looking at salvation, the way I've been thinking most about, is the idea of an individual's personal salvation. Not in a metaphysical, religious sense, but in the sense of 'Someone Saved My Life Today'- a here and now idea, someone figuratively or literally saving someone else's life in the present tense.
When you say 'saving someone's life', pretty much anyone who's watched television or seen a movie will have certain ideas as to what you're speaking about- Let's call it 'The Big Save', for the sake of argument. We've all seen a dramatic rescue of another person, from terrors both natural and man-made, usually in the nick of time, with either a clever quip or heartfelt declaration of some deeper emotional realization. The building's burning down, the damsel is in distress, moments from being burned horribly- only to have our hero, ragged but still unbeaten, burst through the flames, sweep her up in his arms, and dive out just as the building collapses all around. She sees him for the hero she never thought he was, they kiss, and the crowd, both on screen and in the theater, cheer wildly- after all, even fictional characters love a happy ending. There are real-world examples of this 'Big Save'- every day, men and women around the world spend their days saving lives, many times in ways far more dramatic than anything we see on screen. It's not just these day-in-day-out heroes; It's the so-called common man or woman, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, who step up and do extraordinary things. It's amazing, given so much of what we see of the modern world, that such heroes exist, and walk amongst us every day.
For all that, though, what most concerns me, what I've been thinking on the longest, isn't this 'Big Save'- this epic moment of heroism. Don't get me wrong- I love a last-minute save in the movies more than most, and I think the world can always use more life-saving heroes in it- but that's not what I'm interested in. What interests me is the idea of an everyday salvation. Little acts throughout our lives that add up to making all the difference.
We're surrounded by people, no matter where we go. Co-workers, family, lovers, strangers on the street, we see people come and go all the time, all around us. Our lives all run their courses, intersecting, running together, and peeling away, every day, drawn into each other's orbits for however long it lasts, usually for only a moment, sometimes for longer, and occassionally for a lifetime. The courses we run are never a certain path; our lives are filled with ups and downs, filled with many a triumph, and just as often more tragedy. We all run our course, and so often we stumble. Sometimes that fall is sudden, and profound, and disastrous. Sometimes that fall is so subtle, so sinister, it feels like it's not a fall at all- until the ground is rushing up to meet us, and we look around for something to hold onto, to stop that descent. So often, by that point, we feel there's nothing to stop us- we'll crash and burn. When you physcially fall, you instinctively reach out- whether to stop from smacking into the ground face first, or to catch hold of a steadying object- or to take an outstretched hand. When the stumble is more metaphorical, one of those long slow descents especially, we don't always reach out. Sometimes we're too stunned to react, sometimes we want to crash and burn. Sometimes we don't want to reach out.
Remember this, as you fall-we're still surrounded by those others- strangers, family, friends- and each of them, each of us, has a choice in every moment of our lives- what do you do when you see someone stumble- stand aside, or step up?
Sometimes, we don't have to reach out. Sometimes, those others reach out to us. In ways just as subtle, just as innocuous, those reaching hands take us, hold us, comfort us, and help us back up. It's salvation, just as surely as if they'd pulled us from a car wreck. And it's such a simple thing, this salvation. It's a million little actions that can change the world. Your world, certainly. It's a word spoken in comfort, instead of anger. An attentive ear, not an ignorant one. A smile, not a glare. It's sometimes keeping one's peace, rather than speaking one's mind. It's a different perspective, one who sees without judgment, but with compassion. It's a phone call to see how you're doing when you don't want to talk to anyone, but you really need to talk to someone. It's a funny e-mail when you've forgotten how to laugh, a home-cooked meal when you've forgotten to eat, a time spent hanging out doing nothing- and doing it together, instead of alone. When all you ever hear is 'No', It's the sound of someone saying 'Yes'.
I have fallen, many a time- God knows, I'm no more sure-footed than anyone else. But each time I've fallen- no matter how far, or how hard- someone has always been there. No, they didn't 'fix' me- ultimately, standing up is still up to me. But whether it's been a stranger with a smile, a family member with a hug, or a friend with the right words- someone has always been there to help me stand up on my own again. And so often, they didn't even realize the difference they made. To them, their actions were no more difficult than smiling, or making a phone call, or saying 'yes'. These people are my salvation- they literally saved my life- and they are people who didn't think twice about reaching out to catch me. That's amazing. No- what's amazing is there are people like this everywhere you look. Look at the people around you-
You are surrounded by heroes.
As a fellow traveller, perhaps drifting into your orbit for a moment, or a year, or forever, I walk along, never knowing what our paths will bring- but I do know, if I see you stumble on your path- I will not let you fall. I will catch you, and help you get back on your feet- because you can do the same for me, and maybe, just maybe, we can save each other.