OPINION: Thinking of extraordinary selflessness on Easter

I'm no Bible scholar, not even a serious student of the Good Book, but as Easter Sunday nears I find myself considering in the context of current events a familiar Scripture passage I first read long ago.

Terry Woster
Terry Woster

I'm no Bible scholar, not even a serious student of the Good Book, but as Easter Sunday nears I find myself considering in the context of current events a familiar Scripture passage I first read long ago.

I thought of the passage the other evening as I reflected on the events of Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen students and faculty were shot to death that day, victims of a gunman who walked into the building and began firing a rifle. One of the victims was a 15-year-old - just a kid - named Peter Wang.

From what I've read, Peter Wang probably could have made it out of the school building and lived that day. Instead, when the shooting started, he pulled open a door and held it as other classmates, teachers and staff members rushed through the opening to safety. A couple of sources I read said that dozens of other students and staff got through the door and away from the shooting. Peter Wang did not. As he stood there making sure those others had a quick way out of the building, he was struck and killed by rounds from the gunman's weapon.

Feb. 14, the day of the shooting, was Valentine's Day. It was Ash Wednesday, too, not that the significance of either date swayed the shooter from his murderous course. He apparently went into the school and seemingly shot at random as many people as he could. As often as I read and hear about mass shootings - and it is way too often in our world today - I can't begin to understand that mindset.

I do recognize the impulse that caused young Peter Wang to stand in the doorway to make sure as many other students could flee the building as quickly as possible. I'd like to think - I suppose many of us would like to think - that I'd have had the presence of mind and the courage to do that. Odds are good that I'd have been one of the people running out and away, rather than the young man standing his ground.


Peter Wang's actions, in the context of the Easter season and especially the crucifixion, fit a well-known bit of Scripture from the Gospel of John. It goes: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.''

I doubt if the young man at the door thought about that biblical verse as he made the decision to stand and let others pass. I can't imagine there was time to think much of anything, what with the gunshots and the shouting and the chaos and the echoes throughout the building. He probably didn't ponder the question of whether to run or stand. He just did it.

The action received considerable attention in the newspaper and broadcast reports in the days following the school shooting. It is well that it did. Such selflessness always deserves notice.

I was thinking, though, that acts of putting others first, if not as noteworthy as the Florida one, happen every day in this land. Somewhere in the country, a brother or sister is stepping in the path of harm that would otherwise befall a sibling. Somewhere a mother or father is leaping into the path of a car or other threat to shield a child from harm. That's family, though. We're supposed to do that for those we love most.

Somewhere a soldier is rushing into harm's way to try to protect other soldiers or civilians in the way of trouble and fighting. Somewhere a firefighter is striding into the smoke of a burning building to try to rescue a man or woman or child unable to make it out on their own. Often the person in danger is a total stranger, not a family member, not even a friend as the biblical passage mentions, but just a person who in need of help.

As I said, I'm not a biblical scholar. But when I consider extraordinary selflessness that ordinary people display every day, my spirit lifts and I have hope that perhaps we do love one another.

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