If You Save One Life
I write this article a short two days after the unbelievable discovery that three women, taken when they were girls and missing for ten years, were found alive and safe, rescued from a house blocks from where they lived. I work for Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, and these women are constituents of ours. Details of the horrific conditions they were subjected to for ten years are starting to come out. The neighborhood is stunned to know this could happen in their midst. The entire Cleveland community is, too. Two of the girls’ names are well known to us because their families insisted on keeping their plight and memory alive for ten years. The media firestorm has begun. Those of you who live in New York, Boston or other cities where national tragedies have occurred understand fully what is going on in Cleveland. It is hard for me to fathom that only two days have gone by since this rescue. It feels like two years.
And yet, I find myself transfixed not in sadness but in the joy of seeing the goodness in it all. A hero, Charles Ramsey, a plain unassuming man living nearby could have found ample reason to just ignore cries he heard and simply gone on his way. But he didn’t. I am reminded of the Talmudic adage, “If you save one life it is as if you saved the whole world.” And Charles saved four – the three women and one six year old child born in captivity who knows no other life. Charles eked out a living and struggled for money working as a dishwasher. When offered reward money, he simply declined and said it should go to the women he rescued. Surely his soul will have a special place in the world to come. A black man, he has done more to solidify black/white relations in Cleveland than many organizations.
As shocking and horrifying as these events are, I know that whenever bad happens, there are always people who rush to help. It happened in New York when firefighters went up the tower steps and not down . . . it happened when teachers shielded their students in Newtown . . . and it certainly happened recently in Boston when bombs went off and people ran towards the explosions to help the wounded. And I know the spillover effect of this rescue will change numerous lives positively. The many acts of loving kindness I have witnessed by being so close will surely continue.
One of the first things I learned when I was studying to become a Jew is the importance of community. A Jew is never truly alone. Three women and one child will now go on to rebuild their lives, and I know good will come of this. I have always believed in miracles, and this surely is a modern day one. I am reminded once again that one person has the power to change a life.
Anita Gray was appointed in 2010 to serve as the Jewish Community Liaison for Representative Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio). Anita is a former board member of the Jewish Federation and former chair of its Community Relations and Government Relations committees and its Women’s Division. Anita currently serves on the boards of Shoes and Clothes for Kids, Greater Cleveland Foodbank, and the Italian American Cultural Garden Association. Anita can be reached at email@example.com.