Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.
A few months back I wrote a post about Sir Nicholas Winton entitled “When does 669 equal 15,000”
His is a remarkable story of bravery, ingenuity, compassion, hope, intrigue, longevity, but especially noted, his is a story of humility.
I encourage you to read the previous post as it gives the story of Sir Nicholas as based on a report taken from the news magazine, 60 Minutes as well as the BBC.
At the age of 29, in 1938, a young Jewish London stockbroker made a trip to Prague where he witnessed first hand the perilous situation taking place as Hitler was methodically beginning his annexation of Europe. At the time, most of Europe, Great Britain and the United States had turned a blind eye to Hitler and was taking a stance of Appeasement—an attitude I liken to the mindset of “if I don’t see it or acknowledge it, it is not actually happening.” Sir Winton knew better and he knew that time was of the essence. His mission became clear. He had to get as many children out of harms way before the eventual annexation of the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia as quickly as possible.
With little to no resources, no government or military assistance, Sir Winton arranged passage, as well as the eventual housing and “foster care” back in England, for 669 children all before the Nazis sealed the borders making travel or escape impossible. He organized the running of 8 trains from Prague to London. The last train scheduled to leave Prague was stopped due to the closing of the borders and it is believed that none of the 250 children abroad that train survived as the majority of the children were Jewish.
It was 50 years, long after the war, before anyone became aware of Nicholas Winton and of the heroic act he took upon himself in order to save hundreds of children from a fate of certain death. It was not until his wife discovered an old faded musty scrapbook in a trunk in the attic of their home which contained photographs of a much younger man holding child after child that the story was finally acknowledged. He had not even told his wife.
There are those stories that one hears over the course of a lifetime which make a deep lasting impression—the story of Nicholas Winton, for me, is just such a story.
Earlier this morning, while reading over the BBC’s web news postings, I noticed a story regarding Sir Nicholas being honored earlier this week in The Czech Republic. Sir Nicholas was awarded that country’s highest honor, The Order of the White Lion. Sir Nicholas is now 105 years young. Happily his humor, wit and humility are still very much intact and are most quick and keen. Upon receiving the award, surrounded by many of the now grown children, many of whom are well into their 80’s, Sir Nicholas humbly commented “that I shouldn’t have lived so long as to give everyone the opportunity to exaggerate everything in the way they are doing today.” He went on to thank the British people who helped by taking in the children, the majority of whom, after the war, had not homes nor family to return to.
When asked about life in today’s world, Sir Nicholas replied:
“I don’t think we’ve ever learnt from the mistakes of the past…”
“The world today is now in a more dangerous situation than it has ever been and so long as you’ve got weapons of mass destruction which can finish off any conflict, nothing is safe any more.”
For the video clip and full story from the BBC I’ve provided the following links
Merriam Webster define Hero as:
a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities
a person who is greatly admired
Humility is defined as: the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people
May we be mindful that heroes are not born from the scripts of Hollywood nor of athletic prowess on the playing field. Heroes are born from the hearts and minds of humble men and woman who simply see a situation and know that things must change and then go about to create that change with no regard to themselves or of their own wellbeing. They require no thanks, no recognition, no accolades. They merely do what needs doing then quietly and simply move on.
669 children, who grew exponentially to 15,000, are the better for a man named Nicholas Winton.
You and I are better for knowing his story.