Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Being Saved - When at the Very Bottom of the Sea (with video clip)

Not everyone experiences life under the sea. Let alone to be stranded there - for days on end with no clothing, no food and no water (save for the sea water of course!) and then be able to miraculously swim back to safety to find air, food, water, clothing and life again! 

Though most will never relate to such an episode - there are indeed many who face this very situation while living on the land itself. They look around them at millions of people who seem to be going about life quite "healthily" - but at the end of each day find themselves with nothing. The situation can become desperate! Those on the outside, watching the "nebach" of society, are often quick to condemn and insult one who has fallen on hard times. Many will share their most knowledgeable opinions about why things have turned out that way for someone. "He didn't work hard," they may say. Or alternatively, "If only he wouldn't be so lazy," is offered as a plausible reason as to his current hard times. Others will offer, "If he would only have studied medicine in university as we told him to..." as the reason for the person's current woes.

But when one is stranded... when one is actually there... all the insults in the world do nothing to alleviate the suffering. Our duty is to help where we can, not to insult - just as much as it is the duty of the doctor to heal (and to do everything possible to heal!) and not to predict bad tidings which may well never happen.

Harrison Okene could well understand those words, because when he found himself on a ship almost a year ago, his fate would take on a similar story. Well qualified in hotel management and catering - he was a chef (though he calls himself merely a cook!) Yet when his ship was toppled over by the powerful seas that fateful day, even his greatest skills at cooking a cuisine of the very best flavours and spices would do nothing to save his life. The ship of which he was a part of the crew, sunk hard with 10 out of the 12 crew losing their lives and another never to be found. He was the lucky one - to survive. It seems, miraculously, an air bubble formed in the particular area of the ship he had escaped to and wearing just his boxer shorts, he remained seated hoping, praying and simply wishing someone would rescue him. What else could he do? Trying to find a job at that location wouldn't offer the assistance he needed then. All those stories about working hard for his living and taking care of himself didn't account for much. Finding himself at rock bottom (literally!) meant all he had left in his life was the hope that another would take care of him.

And so he waited. He ate nothing for three days. Somehow his body dealt with the extreme cold under the sea. What more could he do? Suddenly a hand appeared from nowhere. Miraculously (again!) he noticed it coming through and grabbed it. He could well have been asleep, but miraculously he was awake to see it - and he grabbed it. The rescue team realised there was someone still alive. The rest - as they say - is history.

The team took the greatest of care to save his life. There was no criticism for his having chosen chef-school as his means of earning a living - nor that he had decided to pursue his career on a ship (of all places!) in the dangerous area of the seas. Instead was the care and compassion of a team of people prepared to save someone in trouble - someone who was literally sinking! To save - because that's what needed to be done!

They explained exactly how they would help him - because that's what he needed! They even tied an "umbilical" to him so that they would hold onto him throughout the entire process. (Imagine the kindness of people prepared to construct an artificial cord to one in need today - when most so much want to keep away from assisting the one in need - telling them it's for their own good!) They explained to him what he needed to do. They gave him the oxygen he needed to stay alive while under water. They brought him up to ground level - safely, making sure that decompression was attended to correctly so as not to cause additional problems.

It's amazing what one can learn about how to give charity today - just from a story about a man who found himself sinking on a ship! But it's true - when one learns from all things in life, one can take these lessons seriously enough to realise that saving a (well qualified) man who has sunk in the sea, is really not that much different than saving any person who is struggling in life. That person too is currently helpless, and having reached his particular station in life, can do little more than to sit out and wait for a hand to come through, and pull one up to safety - all the while caring and sharing what will be happening until the other is on level ground again. That's what Tzeddakah - charity - is really all about. It's the one Mitzvah that acknowledges another person's needs and desires - as much as one acknowledges the needs of oneself. No wonder the Torah says - it is in this merit that the final Redemption will be hastened! 

We invite all who value the Mitzvah of Tzedakkah to take part in assisting some very special people who live their lives at rock bottom level on a daily basis to visit our Bayit Chadash Project - and to give them a chance to start life in dignity.

Enjoy the video! The actual rescue starts at about 5:50.

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