The story of Officer Kevin Peck of West Valley City went viral this month. Millions of people saw photographs of the policeman holding the hand of a woman pinned beneath a 12-ton bus, offering comfort while rescue crews rushed to free her before she might suffer additional injury.
It was a simple gesture, done without forethought or trepidation. An elegant act of kindness that to the modest Officer Peck, was not a big deal.
But it really was a big deal — as big as the greater truth that such an act harbors. Officer Peck reminded us of an inherent goodness that from time to time reveals itself in acts of spontaneous humanity.
Who read the story without wondering if they, too, are capable of acting as did the police officer? Yes, he is trained to offer aid to those in distress. But you might recall another story that went worldwide, last September, in Logan. An accident left a motorcyclist trapped beneath a car that had caught fire. A dozen bystanders raced to the victim's aid, and in the face of real danger, somehow managed to lift the burning sedan off the ground and free the victim from further harm.
As is typical in such cases, the rescuers — like Officer Peck — told interviewers they leapt to action without a second thought. They did not see themselves as "heroes," but simply as people who were presented with a course of action they could not walk away from.
We love such stories, because they reinforce that we are possessed of better angels who may be summoned in times of crisis. They offer a portrait of human nature that is not cynical. In short, they remind us that we are capable of great acts of charity.
The story of Officer Peck resonated in part because it occurred during this season of charity; a timely reminder that all of us — at any time — may find ourselves dependent upon the rest of us.
If there is single lesson to be embraced in the story of Officer Peck, it is this: Acts of charity need not be reserved to cases of emergency, or to a season of the year. Whenever we offer help to those in need, in the form of actions large or small, by donating money or needed items, when we give of our time to assist or volunteer, when we choose to help instead of walk away, we have summoned the same angels that led a police officer, on a cold December morning, to reach into the darkness to hold the hand of a stranger.