Student of the Month - October - Sacrifice

I think it was Mr. Spock who said “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few...or the one.”  Of course, he sacrificed his life to save his crewmates from the wrath of Khan (that’ll be my one movie reference. :) ).  And so, I was thinking about the word “sacrifice” and its roots based in religious ritual.  One might think, for example, about the Biblical stories of men sacrificing animals to God to show allegiance or the ancient Greeks, who would sacrifice an animal at the end of a festival for a god such as Dionysus.  To our modern eyes, this type of sacrifice can be viewed as barbaric and insane.  To us, sacrifice is about placing the needs of others in front of your own. But what does contemporary sacrifice look like?   Is it the soldier who joins the Marines because he wants to fight for something he believes in? Is it the police officer who puts her life on the line every time she responds to a call?  Is it the firefighter who runs into burning building to save a person who is trapped? My answer, of course, is yes. It is easy to find people sacrificing their lives, their effort, their money, etc. for the greater good.      

But, (now for a sports reference) let’s consider what baseball aficionados refer to as “the Sacrifice;” that is, the sacrifice bunt.  I find it one of the most intriguing plays in baseball and, since Bill James’ sabermetrics, a play with questionable merit.  For those that don’t know, the sacrifice bunt is a play in which a batter purposely hits the ball a short distance in front of him in order to move a player that is on base to a closer position to score.  The expected result is that the runner will advance and the batter will be easily thrown out at first base...hence, the sacrifice.  You might wonder why I find this so intriguing?  After a player successfully sacrifice bunts, the player returns to the bench amidst a cheering crowd and greeted by his teammates as they stand to congratulate him.  But what did he do?  No run has scored and he didn’t make it safely on base.  In fact, everything he does in that moment goes against a lifetime of training. And, ultimately, he made an out...on purpose, a sticking point with those sabermetric statisticians. Regardless of what side of sabermetrics you fall on, this is the intriguing part.  Something so simple.  Something so ordinary.  Something that should go against what feels “natural.”  Something, in the grand scheme of things, that may not have any relevance at all.  But the effect...the effect can be lasting.  For baseball, it could lead to a run, perhaps even a winning run.  And this cuts to the essence of what sacrifice really is. And with apologies to Mr. Spock, sometimes for those that sacrifice something, the needs of another individual may outweigh the needs of the one.   

In this way, it’s never a surprise when that woman who pulled an elderly man from a burning car about to explode is being interviewed and says, “I don’t think I’m a hero.  Anyone in the same situation would have done the same.”  Or the police officer or firefighter who retorts “I’m just doing my job.”  In the mind of those people, sacrifice seems natural and has little relevance.  I’m not trying to belittle the sacrifice of soldiers, firefighters, or police officers, who put their lives on the line everyday, but sacrifice is not always about saving a life.  We can find sacrifice in the little everyday things.  From the teacher that stays until 5 o’clock to be sure that one student knows how to complete that one problem to the student that walks the cafeteria picking up trash left behind and pushing in chairs after lunch, sacrifice is all around us.  We just need to recognize it.