Roman Turski was working as a flight instructor in Lyons, France when Hitler marched his troops into Austria to enforce the Anschlus (the unification of Germany and Austria) in March 1938. Sensing war was coming, Turski quit his job and decided to fly back to his native Poland to offer his services to the Polish Air Force. While on the way, mechanical problems with his plane forced him to layover in Vienna for a few days. Eager to reach Poland, Turski headed to the lobby to check out of the hotel until soon as his plane was repaired.
But as he made his way through the lobby, a rude man bumped into him and knocked him to the floor. Enraged, Turski leaped to his feet, grabbed the man, and fully intended on reprimanding him. But he immediately saw the man was distressed. He spattered off some German, none of which Turski could understand – except the words “Gestapo! Gestapo!”
Turski understood that the Nazi secret police were after the man – because he was a Jew. Though offended by him, he led the man up to his hotel room and hid him under his bed. With the threat of the Gestapo past, Turski then agreed to fly the man out of Austria. When they arrived in Poland Turski gave him most of his money and his map of Poland – on which he had printed his name. With tears in his eyes, the man thanked him profusely, then disappeared into the woods.
Roman Kurski went on to fight against the Luftwaffe when Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939. When Poland fell to Germany, he escaped to England and flew for the Free French Air Force and participated in the Battle of Britain. As the War raged on Kurski was eventually downed by a German fighter over England. British medics pulled him unconscious and bleeding from his wrecked plane. However, his most serious injury, they discovered, was a skull fracture. So severe were his head injuries the British medical teams despaired of saving his life.
Fortunately, the Brits had an exceptionally skilled and gifted brain surgeon. He performed the near-miraculous surgery that saved Roman Turski’s life.
As he regained consciousness, Turski saw a white-coated man standing over him. It was the brain surgeon who had just saved his life. As he focused on the man, his face looked familiar. So did his voice, as he said in broken English, “Mr. Turski, now I finally have opportunity to pay you back for the kindness you showed me back in Austria.” Turski was dumbfounded. The brain surgeon was none other than the Jewish man he’d helped several years before!
All around us are people in need. It’s so much easier to ignore them and not trouble ourselves with their problems. And if they’ve been harsh or rude to us, it’s all the more difficult to show them any kindness or courtesy. But we will never know what profound effect for good we will have missed by our self-centeredness – a good that might come back to bless us in this life and will most certainly bless us in the life to come. “For we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that everyone may be recompensed for his deeds in this life, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
PRAYER: Dear Father in heaven, it’s such a temptation to keep to myself and focus only on my own problems and agenda. Open my eyes, my ears, and my heart to the cries of those around me and help me to be a helper and a healer of others. Amen.