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Can a person save another’s life?

You say Sure–pull one drowning from the waves (I saw such a saving as a child–don’t know what impressed me more, the fact that one person had saved another or the green seawater slime that burped out of the kid’s mouth), push one from the path of an oncoming car, put a tourniquet on a bombing victim’s severed leg. One can save another’s physical life, which also means saving all other parts of his (or her) life as well.

And, you might add, one can save another’s spiritual life, which might also guarantee saving their physical life. Sometimes a person can intervene to stop another’s alcoholism or drug addiction (I have a friend who freely acknowledges such a saving, though he’s no longer with his savior), depression and suicidal tendencies, overpowering despair and confusion. Somehow, someway, an individual can stop another’s self-destructive tendencies and thereby save not only the person’s spirit but also his or her life.

If we grant such dramatic physical or spiritual deliverance, must we then also acknowledge less dramatic or obvious rescues that have the same net impact–a life spared, saved for future life? If so, how far can we take such logic? Are we saved daily by the subtle actions or words of another? Can love or friendship redirect a life in a profound way, “save” a life–if not from physical death perhaps from a spiritual dead-end, save a life for good, or at least better choices and actions?

And in any of these salvations, what does the “saved” owe the “saver,” whether pulled from the waves, abandoning the heroin needle, redirected by friendship or love? Does the saved owe the saver any more than simply life lived, the ultimate (if not permanent) renunciation of death? But if something more is owed (in the mind of the saved, if nowhere else), how might that debt be settled?

Becca’s Book recounts a fictional romance in which one party perceives salvation in and through the love of the other. The “saved” is not called away from alcoholism or drug addiction or off the ledge of a tall building. In fact, by most external measures, his life is ascendant, and others would more likely see him a “saver” than “saved.” But he sees himself as saved–by this other, by her love. And he lives in the light of that salvation.

While such a dynamic is tricky enough to live through (read the book–here at the moment–if you don’t believe me), it’s even trickier to live after. What does the saved owe the saver?

At the climactic end of Saving Private Ryan, just before dying Captain Miller tells Private Ryan “Earn this!” Earn your salvation! But what does that mean? Live a good life? Have many children? Make lots of money? Visit my grave? What? Earn this!

What does the saved owe the saver?

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