By Mohan Karulkar: "'I see trees"  were the last words of balloonist Ed Ristaino.

This past weekend, Ed's hot air balloon crashed to the ground in Georgia after unexpectedly encountering a nasty storm. He had taken 5 skydivers up for a routine jump, and forced them to bail out when things were getting ugly.  Ed was left behind to ride it out, but he and his balloon didn't make it.

He was calm and in contact with a ground crew the whole way down, and never expressed any regrets. His actions saved the divers, but at the expense of his own life.  Talk about sacrifice, right?

This story moved me deeply, and it made me think about the way we sometimes approach this whole thing we call second chances.  ("We" being a liberal interpretation of "me," of course...)

I think we usually mean well, but sometimes, we can be downright selfish in the way we  interpret grace.   We either want credit for our actions, or we want to come along for the ride.  We want the gratification of seeing what happens next, and knowing that our actions saved the day.

But you know what?  Sometimes we don't save the day.  Sometimes the second chance we give is squandered.  Sometimes the second chance takes the other person somewhere we can't be.  And sometimes no one ever knows what we did -- not even the recipient.

Even worse, sometimes giving a second chance can make us very unpopular.  Standing up for the bad guy isn't exactly Superman material, after all.    But that sacrifice, given unconditionally -- regardless of the consequences -- is what makes a second chance so powerful. The greatest reward comes from loving the unlovely.

Ed Ristaino didn't know what was going to happen when he forced out the skydivers -- his only way off the balloon.  He didn't know if they'd make it down safely, and he certainly didn't know what would happen to him.

But that's what you do when people are in trouble -- you find a way to help them up and give them a shot at survival.  Even if it might not work, and even if it might come at a cost to you. Think about that next time you find yourself face to face with someone caught in a storm.

Talk about it below: has anyone ever gone out on a limb for you?

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