A few weeks ago, Ivy Tech Community College hosted its top students for the Indiana Academic Team Awards. As one might come to expect from such an event, the life stories of these folks are breathtaking. Some have confronted enormous personal challenges to pursue a better life. One woman, raising a young daughter by herself, had been severely injured in an automobile accident and despite the unfortunate circumstances that had gripped her life before found the strength to overcome her disabilities to complete her degree and to become an active and involved participant in the college community and beyond. Even those with more common tales have managed to exceed the routine to elevate themselves to greater aspirations.
On this special evening, the College had engaged a motivational speaker to address the already inspired and motivated crowd for a keynote address. He had spent his life working with young military recruits and regaled the assembled crowd with delightful accounts of surmounting challenge. But, it was an offhanded remark that has stuck with me in these ensuing days. While extolling the grit of the young people at the United States Coast Guard Academy, he mentioned that they refer to the lives they hope to preserve and protect carry the moniker “souls.”
Immediately, one is reminded of S.O.S. from the not too distant past of communication via Morse Code. When a ship found itself in grave peril, the radio operator would begin signaling S.O.S. to plead to any that might hear – save our souls. When real threat is upon us and we hope to recruit another to risk their own corporal being, we entreat for a soul not a life. I have come to wonder if by dedicating ourselves to the pain of another we are really saving their lives and our souls.