When you are a boy playing soccer, probably the last thing you are thinking about is being safe. For twelve-year-old Sead Bekric it nearly was when artillery shells blew up the ground beneath his feet in Bosnia.
The last memory Sead has before the darkness closed his eyes was watching a friend’s head being blown off. He has no memory of the shrapnel that struck his eyes or the helicopter that would later come to fly him to Tuzla.
All he remembers is the pain. He screamed in agony, seemingly forever, until he heard his younger brother’s voice. Summing up his courage, he said, “I’m all right. Don’t be afraid.”
A CNN crew passing by caught this touching exchange. Within hours the image of this brave blind boy was broadcast around the world. Millions of people saw the story. Many undoubtedly wished they could do something to help.
One man did.
Bob Macauley, founder of AmeriCares, was watching from his office in Connecticut. He told his assistant, Terry Tarnowski, “Let’s go get him.”
“Most of us can be terribly moved by something and even say within ourselves – ‘Oh, I wish I could do something.’ Bob never stopped there,” Terry recalls. “With Bob that was just the beginning. The desire was just the first step and for him it was never a big step. For Bob, it was as simple as I want to respond. I will respond. The best way to respond was the next step.”
At that time, Tuzla airport was not open for humanitarian relief flights, but somehow Bob persuaded the UN to let AmeriCares land long enough to collect the boy and bring him out. Less than 24 hours after the boy lost his sight, a rescue team was en route.
The trip was harrowing. Going in, the helicopter had to refuel at Split before the final leg to Tuzla. Fighting was so fierce, the helicopter had to touch down, gas up, and leave in less than ten minutes; but two hours later, they were in Tuzla.
Sead lost his sight on Monday. By Friday of the same week, he was in California being treated by the Jules Stein Eye Institute.
“It seems your approach is total commitment,” I told Bob when I heard this story. “You decided you were going to get this kid one way or another and just went for it.”
“That’s right,” Bob said. “If you know what the right thing to do is you just do it. And if you explain to people what you are trying to do, they will want to help. People love to get aboard. They get a lot of satisfaction out of being part of it. In Saed’s case, when we got him to the Netherlands the people at KLM had all seen his picture and wanted to help. They put him on a plane and flew him to LA free of charge.”
“When you see an opportunity like that, go for it. Don’t weigh it back and forth, up and down, or go half way. Don’t think of all the reasons why it won’t work, or second-guess yourself. Just do it. Make your mind up you are going to go and go.”
“If you are doing it for someone else, that’s almost a guarantee of success. If you are doing it for yourself, that’s almost always a guarantee of failure. If you don’t go for it when the window is open, it will never open again. If you lead, others will follow.”
(Taken from “His Name Is Today,” the story of Bob Macauley)