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On this day in 1347 six burghers of the besieged French city of Calais surrendered to King Edward III of England, in hopes of relieving the siege.
Eustache de Saint Pierre, volunteered first, and five other townspeople joined him, ready to face death for the sake of their fellow citizens. Happily, their lives were spared by the intervention of England’s queen, Philippa of Hainault, who persuaded her husband to exercise mercy.
Self-sacrifice to the extent of dying in place of another person is held to be one of the finest human acts possible. It is always heroic. How far would we go? Would we have joined Eustache de Saint Pierre in 1347? Perhaps instead, we need to work on unselfishness and self-sacrifice in lesser ways. Perhaps we need to be not heroes, but good Samaritans.
Today’s poem by Australian Henry Lawson, is about that:
Once on a time there lived a man,
But he has lived alway,
And that gaunt, Good Samaritan
Is with us here to-day;
He passes through the city streets
Unnoticed and unknown,
He helps the sinner that he meets—
His sorrows are his own.
He shares his tucker on the track
When things are at their worst
(And often shouts in bars outback
For souls that are athirst).
To-day I see him staggering down
The blazing water-course,
And making for the distant town
With a sick man on his horse.
Today I ask for the opportunity to work on my selfishness and to help others in need.