It was December of 1938. Nicholas Winton had planned to take a ski trip to Switzerland. He was a 29-year-old London stockbroker when he received a phone call from his friend Martin Blake asking him to cancel his holiday and come to Prague.
Thousands of refugees were placed in camps there and were living in appalling conditions. These people were enemies of Hitler and they needed help.
Fortunately Winton arrived. His personal motto was that “if something’s not impossible there must be a way of doing it.”His motto was his strong suit. He had no experience in charitable work. No high-rank in the British military. He wasn’t an elected official.
He simply saw a need and found a way to help.
And help he did. He found foster homes for children. He found sponsorship money. He even got Germans to go along with his plan.
He coordinated his efforts from his home in London for the next nine months. In that time eight train evacuated 669 children with the last trainload leaving on August 2, 1939. The largest evacuation was scheduled for September 1, 1939 but Hitler invaded Poland and all borders controlled by Germany were closed.
When the war was over he didn’t tell anyone what he had done. Even his wife didn’t know until she discovered, in 1988, a scrapbook of his from 1939 in the attic. A detailed list of names was included which she shared with a Holocaust historian.
Then in 1988 a BBC program called That’s Life surprised him by staging a reunion of these now grown-up survivors and Winton. You can see a clip of that here. You can watch a 60 Minutes piece on Winton here.
669 children saved. But it is estimated that around 6,000 people around the world owe him their lives. The survivors gave him a ring inscribed with a line from the Talmud. It reads: “Save one life, save the world.”
You may not be a Nicholas Winton but you can make a difference. Follow his example:
- Be available when there is a need. Winton changed his plans when a friend called for help.
- Find a way to do what needs to be done. Winton believed there must be a way to get the job done.
- Do what you can. Winton could have let the situation overwhelm him. Instead he got to work and did what he could.
Jesus said greater love has no man than to lay down his life for another. It may be your physical life. But it may be laying down a vacation plan to give your effort to a greater need. Or it may be merely giving a listening ear to someone who needs some direction in their life.
Winton gave something up to make a difference. You can do the same this week. Start with one life you can help. You never know how many more lives you will impact.
Question: What is one thing you can do this week to impact someone else’s life you know?