These past few weeks a number of great people who were all over the age of 100 passed away. I have seen notices of the deaths of Frances Oldham Kelsey, Tom Derek Bowden and Nicholas Winton.
You may be unfamiliar with some of these names, but each of them stepped up when there was a desperate need for responsible, humanitarian and courageous action. Each of them saved lives when others turned away.
Their famous actions took place decades ago, yet all humanity was blessed by the lengthy years that followed when they were still among us. When Jacob goes to Haran in Genesis 28:10, the verse makes the point of saying that he left Be’ersheba. Rather reduntant, no? You can’t go somewhere without leaving where you were. Ancient Jewish wisdom points out that the extra wordage tells us that Be’ersheba lost something with Jacob’s going. While he was there, the city benefitted simply by the presence of a great person.
When we read of great exploits of those who lived before us, we can stay a bit disconnected. It makes for wonderful, adventurous reading, but it is history—our times are different. Sharing this earth with those who did great things prods us to recognize that bravery and sticking out our necks for what is right is a current need as well. As long as these individuals were on this planet, their very presence brought blessing to the world. Now that they are gone, the onus is even more on us to compensate for that loss.