I've thought all week about the importance of lifelines. Ever since the 33 Chilean miners were rescued, I have been thinking about how they were saved. Those fortunate men are alive because the mining company, the Chilean government and some creative drilling companies were determined to find them.
The probe that first established contact with the miners, followed by a wider shaft and then an ingenious tube transporting them to the surface ... all of these were lifelines. The miners were in the desperate situation where, trapped one-half mile below the surface of the earth, they had no power to rescue themselves.
They are not the only recent prominent recipients of a lifeline. Last month the Nobel Committee awarded imprisoned Chinese poet and dissident Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize. This human rights activist has been cruelly imprisoned for years because he has advocated for justice and human rights in his native country. Despots in many nations, fearful of democracy and openness, imprison and torture those who dare confront power. Now, the Nobel Peace Prize has become a kind of lifeline for Xiaobo, encouraging him in the lonely fight for human rights.
What can an ordinary person do to help others? We can all throw a lifeline to somebody, which explains why the human rights organization Amnesty International urges its members to write letters to dictators seeking release of political prisoners. They also ask members to write letters to the prisoners themselves.
To be sure, mental health professionals, clergypersons, physicians, financial counselors, etc., can provide safety nets because of their specialized training in "rescue." We are grateful for those who devote their careers to saving other people.
But those professional people are already swamped and the social service network can only stretch so thin. In some places it is already overloaded. There are not enough people in state government, for instance, to take responsibility for all the children who need homes, health, food, education.
Every one of us is called upon to throw a lifeline to somebody. The role of "rescuer" cannot be assigned solely to those in the caring professions.
Though it is not as dramatic as the saving of the 33 Chilean miners, I am sure that a rescue -- many rescues -- are taking place in Albany every single day because somebody ordinary cares about somebody else ordinary and does something about it. No television camera is recording these acts; no national president stands alongside to offer congratulations, no headlines will ever be recorded. But somebody adopts a child, visits a prisoner, works at a homeless shelter and a lifeline is tossed. Somebody prepares a meal, makes a telephone call, offers a prayer, and a lifeline is tossed.
Does this describe you? Surely we are not blind to the suffering all around us. Surely everybody knows a person in need of a lifeline. Maybe God is calling you to be that person today.
Contact the Rev. Creede Hinshaw at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah at firstname.lastname@example.org.