Thoughts from the Senior Warden

(November 17, 2020)

There was a remarkable story in the New York Times that appeared over the weekend. It was about a former New York City police officer who had just passed away (another victim of the coronavirus). What peaked my interest is that former police officer Al Howard played a unique role in history in saving the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The episode took place in a department store in Harlem named Blumstein’s. Dr. King was in the store signing autographs for his first book “Stride Toward Freedom” (about the Montgomery bus boycott) when a mentally ill women stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener. Officer Howard and his partner were called to the site and made the important decision to seek advice (by phone) from a doctor at Harlem Hospital. The doctor instructed the officer not to pull the knife out (which was what a bystander was about to do as the officers arrived). As it turned out (according to the surgeon); the blade “impinged on the aorta – the blood vessel near the heart - and a puncture would have caused instant death”. Dr. King, with the help of the officers, was taken to the hospital with the blade protruding from his chest, was treated and recovered fully. The story is mentioned in history books and Dr. King actually referenced the event in the speech the day before his assassination. What is remarkable to me is how modest Officer Howard appears to have been in playing down his part in helping to save the life of a man who was on a journey to accomplish great things. That’s not to say that he didn’t recognized the significance of what was done that day in 1958. In recounting the story to a friend (in the article), the acquaintance makes the statement, “You can save a guy’s life, and still, the life isn’t saved.” To which Al Howard responded, “In the span of the years that he didn’t die by being stabbed, he went on to do his most important works.” 
The takeaway? Our actions have consequences greater than we can imagine. The follow-up? Find a way to take action (in whatever way you can). Grace Episcopal Church/La Gracia and our community will be better places for it. 
Blessings -

Michael Heffner
Grace Episcopal Church/La Gracia
Senior Warden