For a moment, imagine that you’re in an important boat rowing race. Just for kicks, imagine that your dedication to practice and your perfectly synchronized strokes have put your team way out in front of the competition. Now, imagine what you would do if another team’s boat capsized, threatening the lives of its rowers.
For James Konopka and Nick Mead, no imagination was required.
The Head of the Schuykill regatta is hosted in Pennsylvania each fall. In 2011, the weather was unseasonably cold, which affected the water temperatures, but many high school rowing teams showed up to race on the frigid waters, anyway.
Rowing for Episcopal Academy in the Under-17 doubles race, Konopka and Mead instantly built themselves an early lead. But then they both saw the boat from St. Joseph’s Prep capsize, perilously throwing Joe Leonard and Andrew Burrichter into the icy water.
“They had flipped,” said sophomore Konopka. “Nick said we should probably go back [to help them] and I agreed, so we turned around.”
Nick Mead filled in the gaps. “They were yelling ‘help’ and one of the kids didn’t appear as if he could swim too well. The water was cold and I’m sure their limbs were going numb.” Given that the high that day was a mere 45 degrees, his assumption was almost certainly correct.
Without hesitation, Konopka and Mead turned around, paddled back to the capsized boat, and pulled their endangered competitors from the frigid waters. With their medalist finish sacrificed, the two “good Samaritans” waited with the shivering boys until a launch team showed up to carry the boys back to safety. Only then did Konopka and Mead resume their race.
But no good deed goes unpunished right?
When the heroic duo eventually crossed the finish line – in last place – their coaching staff was stunned at their disappointing finish…until they found out what happened. Their displeasure quickly turned to adulation – fittingly – as they affirmed the boys’ sense of selflessness that’s rooted in the ancient story Jesus told:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)