Sunday, December 4, 2011

Defending Each Other

Being a student of military history, I enjoy pondering deeper lessons waiting to be excavated from past incidents. Here's one that comes from beleaguered England in 1940:

In September of 1940, a time when German bombers and fighters regularly appeared to wreak havoc on Britain, Kathleen Rainer was toiling in a field in Sussex. Overhead, enemy fighter planes appeared, but British fighters raced to engage the foe. Kathleen stood and watched in fascination as friendly and enemy forces battled it out far overhead in deadly dogfights. Then, as she watched, a British plane took a mortal hit, and the pilot bailed from the stricken craft. Kathleen sighed in relief when the parachute billowed open. The pilot was alive and safe! But then the German planes did the unthinkable--they flew straight at the dangling man in attempts to machine gun him as he hung defenseless in his harness! Next, her horror transformed into admiration as she witnessed what the man's comrades did:

"The other Spitfires began to circle the parachute, protecting the pilot from the German attack. As the pilot descended down, the rest of his squadron would spiral down with him, guiding him to the ground and protecting him." *

What's my point? Life can be a struggle, and in this struggle we can take "hits" from multiple attackers, whether they happen at work, on the ball field, in the home, or simply in the natural course of human events. We can approach this scenario in one of two ways. We can live by the motto, "Every man for himself," or we can imitate those brave Spitfire pilots who saw their sinking friend and rallied to his aid, even though the action made themselves more vulnerable.

If you've ever had a friend or family member to come alongside and lift your spirits when you felt under attack, you know what I'm talking about. Here, I encourage you as I encourage myself to keep our eyes open for those who have taken some hits and may be sinking in silence. Perhaps your encouragement and friendship is exactly what they'll need to survive!

*Kathleen Rainer, "Downed Pilots in Sussex,"

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