[This story first appeared as a Catch on January 13, 2017. I’m revisiting it because we need to be reminded to listen for this cry in every human soul.]
My wife, Marti, loves to tell the story of a dramatic rescue in which she played a significant role when she was a flight attendant. On a routine done-it-a-hundred-times flight from Chicago to New York, a gentleman on board had a heart attack. Literally keeled over in his seat. This is when you are really grateful for the flight attendant call button the man’s fellow passenger pushed in a panic.
Marti sprang into action as soon as she discovered what had happened. She often complained about her flight attendant job that they were so well trained in what they rarely used. Of course you want it this way, since what they were trained for is emergencies like getting people off of burning airplanes. That didn’t matter to Marti; in her imagination she had gotten everyone safely off the plane a thousand times. So much so that she actually used to talk about wanting to crash. I tried to point out to her that in most crashes, there were no survivors, but she would have none of that.
So this was a chance for her emergency training to finally kick in, which it did, when she and her fellow flight attendant rolled the man out of his seat onto the floor of the plane and immediately began administering CPR — one of them breathing air into his lungs while the other pressed on his breast bone. For over an hour they carried this out, never knowing for sure whether or not they were saving the man’s life or merely manipulating a corpse. To carry this out for so long was exhausting work, and more than once during the process they contemplated giving up, but this is Marti we’re dealing with here, and “give up” is simply not in her DNA.
Marti also happened to know the pilot well — they worked together in an organization she had begun in her Los Angeles domicile called Fellowship of Christian Airline Personnel — and he had ultimate respect and trust in Marti to call the shots. Like a lot of pilots back then, he was a former WW2 fighter pilot who took Marti’s cue and banked the plane around, heading to the nearest major airport. He called ahead and got the whole airport on lock down so there would be no delay in landing and taxiing to the designated gate where an emergency crew waited to immediately board the plane. Marti says that when they descended, it felt like he was dive-bombing an enemy carrier.
By the time the emergency crew was on board, the man had regained consciousness and was breathing on his own. The whole plane erupted in applause as they rolled him out on a gurney. But before they left, the man thanked Marti and her fellow flight attendant profusely for saving his life, and then he revealed to her an amazing thing. Trapped inside his unconsciousness, he could nevertheless still hear everything, including the debate as to whether it was worth it to continue, and the whole time he kept screaming inside himself, “Don’t give up on me. Please, don’t give up!”
I want you to start imagining that for everyone you meet, whether they acknowledge it or not — whether they are a seeker or an avid atheist — somewhere deep down inside there is a voice screaming, “Don’t give up on me. Please, don’t give up!” Learn to listen for that voice and believe it, and don’t give up on anyone.