A nation of risk takers, heroes and heroines

By Chuck Norris

With our nation and the world almost at a standstill from the spread of the COVID-19, I read another great example of true service and sacrifice during Easter week that comes to us from way back in the third century.

Malcolm Duncan, in his book “Risk Takers,” describes the heroes:

They were known as “the Parabolani” (based on the Greek word for “risking his life” in Philippians 2:30). The movement began in Carthage [a seaside suburb of Tunisia’s capital, Tunis] in A.D. 252 and lasted several hundred years. It was a group of people willing to “risk everything”…

Here’s the story: Like many other places around the same time, Carthage was petrified of the plague. It wrought death and disaster when it struck, and it was merciless in its sweep, claiming the lives of all who stood in its path. So, when an outbreak of the plague struck the city in A.D. 232, the local authorities acted swiftly and decisively. Dead bodies were disposed of, and those who were suspected of having been contaminated were put outside the city walls. The impact was enormous suffering and death and disease on an epic scale. The Bishop of Carthage at the time, Cyprian, also acted swiftly. He called the church together and invited them to go and live among the sick and dying. He challenged them to give up the comfort and security of their own well-being and to step into the world of the rejected and the forgotten. Cyprian set the example of Epaphroditus [a biblical figure and assistant to the Apostle Paul] as an inspiration.

The Parabolani became a movement that served the broken, the poor, the forgotten and the vulnerable. Inspired by the example of Epaphroditus, they too gave up the security of what they knew and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime as they served those whom others rejected.

Well, I bet it doesn’t take long for anyone reading this article to find modern-day parallels in the medical community and other first responders like paramedics, firemen and law enforcement in their heroic actions to save lives amidst COVID-19. But there are others as well as I will shortly share with you. While most avoid anyone with symptoms of the coronavirus, these are those who rush in to help them in their times of need.

Hasn’t it been amazing to watch and read their stories?

Here’s just a sample of the titles of recent news articles I’ve read about some:

“Nurses are coronavirus heroes”

“Anesthesiologists hailed as special heroes in fight against coronavirus”

“‘We Won’t Let Him Die in Our Ambulance.’ A Day with a Paramedic Facing the Coronavirus Pandemic”

“Local Law Enforcement Heroes Respond to their New Normal”

“Heroes Among Us: Glendale firefighters grocery shop for residents who are high-risk for COVID-19”

“The Country Won’t Work Without Them. 12 Stories of People Putting Their Lives on the Line to Help Others During Coronavirus”

“19 Coronavirus Heroes”

“The Real Heroes in the Fight against Coronavirus”

“Support Frontline Organizations Helping in Fight Against Coronavirus”

“Inside the Army Corps of Engineers’ Race to Build Emergency Coronavirus Hospitals”

“My Husband Died Trying to Protect His Bus Passengers From Coronavirus”

“‘It Hit Like a Bomb.’ A Georgia Coroner on How the Coronavirus Is Ravaging His Community”

“‘This Could Be the Last Thing I Do on Earth.’ A Michigan Doctor Was Going to Retire. Then Came the Coronavirus”

“The Rising Heroes of the Coronavirus Era? Nations’ Top Scientists”

“‘I’ve Never Been So Afraid.’ 5 Employees on the Everyday Terror of Working in Grocery Stores During the Pandemic”

“Our Postal Workers and Letter Carriers are Coronavirus Heroes”

One of the best modern examples of “Cyprian’s Parabolani” is the team at Samaritan’s Purse, the relief agency of Franklin Graham, son of the late and great Rev. Billy Graham. Samaritan’s Purse has set up huge tents as a field hospital right in the heart of Central Park, and volunteer doctors, nurses and other medical staff have flown in from all over the country and world to help. They are right now placing themselves directly in harm’s way in order to rescue dozens from COVID-19’s firm and deadly grip. Heroes all!

Whatever your opinion of COVID-19 and its impact on your life and community, there’s no getting over the fact that this pandemic is creating a nation of heroes and heroines. And quite frankly, I think there ought to be a monument erected in every town and city across the nation in which Americans who gave their lives to save others are commemorated, just as we have memorials for 9/11.

Speaking of 9/11, Tom Ridge, the first U.S. secretary of homeland security, wrote a fantastic opinion piece this week titled, “Coronavirus is America’s next test after 9/11. And a generation of heroes has responded.” Tom would know since he was among former President George W. Bush’s war cabinet in 2001.

Tom wrote, “On 9/11, our heroes were the first responders who ran toward and into smoldering buildings, and those unbelievably brave men and women on board Flight 93 who refused to allow their plane to be used as a weapon. Their sacrifice defined our national response. Today we salute the nurses, physicians, EMTs and other health care providers who each day risk infection themselves so that they may save the lives of the thousands who fill up their emergency departments and intensive care units.

“Our selfless heroes are also everyday folks. Truck drivers and their 18-wheelers travel the interstates with food, gas and medicines that we need locally. Our neighbor may stock the shelves at grocery stores or work as a delivery driver or volunteer at the local food pantry. The postal service risks the health of its workers to connect us, providing an often-vital lifeline.”

In this present darkness, we all face a big challenge to be prudent not panic, to serve not fear, and to selflessness over self-protection and preservation. But for many, they take that sacrifice to war proportions, even giving up their lives to help others. They are beyond heroic and show that the American warrior spirit is alive and well!

Tom Ridge couldn’t have summarized it better: “Historically, America is strongest when we try to rally together in the midst of adversity. E Pluribus Unum … We are a patriotic, resilient and compassionate country on a collective mission to defeat this virulent enemy. And I think when this national nightmare is over, we will emerge stronger and better. This is, after all, the ultimate test of our times.”

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