By Chris Warren.
Rare is the man who does something great and keeps it to himself. In a time of instant gratification and “likes” and ever escalating public self affirmations, simply doing the right thing only because it’s the right thing and not for recognition seems like an anachronism. A lot of people perform good deeds —which is awesome— and then go and brag about it, usually on the internet. It’s almost as if they are really doing it for themselves and the benefit to others is merely a pleasant side effect.
In late 1939 Nicholas Winton was a young English stockbroker looking forward to a leisurely ski trip in Switzerland when at the last moment he changed his plans and went to Prague, Czechoslovakia instead to help a friend with humanitarian work. Hitler was marching across Europe and there were a lot of innocent bystanders, particularly children. On a whim and with no resources, experience, or diplomatic contacts, Winton remained in Prague for months and singlehandedly arranged safe passage to England for 669 Jewish children who would have otherwise been murdered by the Nazis.
For fifty years, Winton never told anyone about what he did. In the late 1980s, his wife found a scrap book with detailed evidence of her husband’s pre-war rescue effort. Only then did the rest of the world find out about Nicholas Winton’s amazing act of altruism. On a BBC television program he was reunited with some of the kids he saved, who by then were senior citizens with children and grandchildren of their own. Until that time none of them knew the backstory of how they ended up in England or who was responsible for whisking them to safety before the Nazis came.
Since then, Winton was knighted by the Queen of England and has been given so many other awards and honors it’s hard to list them all. There are statues memorializing his work; a school in Czechoslovakia and an asteroid in outer space are named after him. Through all this, Sir Nicholas Winton has kept his composure and acknowledges his selfless deed only when asked about it. He comes from an era when there was no internet or social media, but I think even if it were an option in 1939, Winton would not have been on Facebook congratulating himself and fishing for “likes”. After all, he kept it to himself for half a century and reluctantly talked about it only after someone else outed him.
“When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:2)
Winton is not known to be a religious person but those of devout faith can learn a lot from his attitude. He had no ulterior motives and did what he did solely because it was right and good. I believe there are others like Winton out there today; you will seldom hear about them because they are looking beyond their own presumptuous egos and don’t concern themselves with being noticed. Christianity teaches that those who boast about their good deeds will receive no Heavenly reward beyond their own bragging. If that’s true, and I believe it is, then Sir Nicholas Winton’s humble and understated life says more about him than any self indulgent internet platitudes could ever approach.