It just may be in my mind, but from my perspective, I believe we are seeing more and more first responders. Textbook definition of a first responder is “one who has specialized training and arrive on the scene of an accident or emergency to give assistance.” The definition that I have been seeing lately is “One who runs toward an event or accident rather than away.”

Lately, there have been so many cars catching fire on the roadways, houses on fire with babies, dogs and seniors trapped inside. Babies, young children and animals are being left in hot, locked cars. However, in most of these cases, lives are being saved by unknown passer-byers with little or no training. The words we use for them are also First Responders.

Just a few weeks ago we witnessed Jon Stewart’s passionate and, at times, angry plea to the Senate calling on the members to vote for continuous financial aid to the survivors and families of the 911 First Responders who did not survive. It was sad that he even had to make the presentation, but he did.

Not one day goes by without the report of one of these or all of these situations occurring. First responders running toward the event is equally good news. We are witnessing a record number of people who are willing to risk their lives to save others. This might have been happening all along, but it just seems to be happening more these days.

A few years ago my heart grew heavy after reading about a first responder in Rockmart who put his life on the line and lost it just to save a child who he was not acquainted with from drowning. My heart grew heavy that day, and still does because he had a family who was left behind. Those who witnessed the act reported that after Mike Patterson dove into the water to save the child, not realizing that the water was too shallow for a dive of that nature, he broke his neck, and yet he was able to raise the child above his head to let others know that he had made the rescue of the child. I, along with many others, have asked how could a man with a broken neck have enough strength to even hold himself up? This first responder did. There is something special about the nature of a first responder. There definitely was something special about Mike Patterson.

What does it take to cause man to reach down to his deepest and best human nature, pull out and pour out everything that he has for others? What would you do? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has said that one never knows the true character of a man until he is faced with controversy and conflict. That is when we find out the true nature of an individual. Mike Patterson revealed the true nature of his humanity by jumping into the creek in Rockmart to save the life of a young child that he did not know and probably had never seen before.

These are the times and acts of heroism, when we can understand why God loves man so much. Only God knows the deepest level of man’s humanity. He knows what he created in man and none of us will ever understand it fully. The Patterson family had an angel in the home, and that day he served as a life saving angel for that little girl. Be kind to strangers because you never know when you are entertaining angels unawares.

Here was a man who lived among us, and it was only through has act that we have been able to see ourselves and hopefully search ourselves. Let us re-examine ourselves as we pray strength for the Patterson family as they move on with the spirit of that angel always hovering ever near to bring comfort, peace and love to them all. His angelic mission was accomplished down here. He left us with our minds racing to understand the mystery of man’s humanity to man. He was God’s unique creation and there is a little piece of that gold in each of us. Mr. Patterson was sent here for such a time as that.

Willie Mae Samuel is a playwright and a director in Rome. She is the founder and director of American Connection for the Performing Arts Inc.