Twenty-two people traveled to London on a fall morning in 2009 to thank Nicholas Winton. They could have passed for a retirement-home social club. All were in their seventies or eighties. More gray hair than not. More shuffled steps than quick ones.
But this was no social trip. It was a journey of gratitude. They came to thank the man who had saved their lives: a stooped centenarian who met them on a train platform just as he had in 1939.
He was a twenty-nine-year-old stockbroker at the time. Hitler's armies were ravaging the nation of Czechoslovakia, tearing Jewish families apart and marching parents to concentration camps. No one was caring for the children.
Winton got wind of their plight and resolved to help them. He used his vacation to travel to Prague, where he met parents who, incredibly, were willing to entrust their children's future to his care. After returning to England, he worked his regular job on the stock exchange by day and advocated for the children at night. He convinced Great Britain to permit their entry. He found foster homes and raised funds. Then he scheduled his first transport an March 14, 1939, and accomplished seven more over the next five months. His last trainload of children arrived on August 2, bringing the total of rescued children to 669.
On September 1, the biggest transport was to take place, but Hitler invaded Poland, and Germany closed borders throughout Europe. None of the 250 children on that train were ever seen again.
After the war Winton didn't tell anyone of his rescue efforts, not even his wife. In 1988 she found a scrapbook in their attic with all the children's photos and a complete list of names. She prodded him to tell the story. As he has, rescued children have returned to say thank you. The grateful group includes a film director, a Canadian journalist, a news correspondent, a former minister in the British cabinet, a magazine manager, and one of the founders of the Israeli Air Force.
There are some seven thousand children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who owe their existence to Winton's bravery. He wears a ring given to him by some of the children he saved. It bears a line from the Talmud, the book of Jewish law: "Save one life. Save the world."'
Chalk up another one for the common guy.
Max Lucado, Outlive Your Life Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010, 15-16.
Max Lucado Experiences Transformation in Devastated Guatemala, SFS, 12 October 2010.
Oh to Hear a Human Voice, SFS, 10 October 2010.
Max Lucado Realizes What One Meal Can Do, SFS, 9 October 2010.
When Max Lucado Encountered Mother Teresa, SFS, 8 October 2010.
When Max Lucado Forgot the Bread, SFS, 8 October 2010.
Finding Father Benjamin: A Fable by Max Lucado, SFS, 5 October 2010.
Becoming More Ourselves, SFS, 16 January 2007.
Learning to Listen, SFS, 10 September 2006.
Geoff Pound’s new book on gratitude is described at this link: Talk About Thanksgiving.
Image: “His last trainload of children arrived on August 2, bringing the total of rescued children to 669.”