Kathryn Lopez

That void can be seen when the best advice an adult can think to give a child is a "safe word." Why would we ever encourage the young to settle for something so demeaning? It's not the whips in a culture where "50 Shades of Grey" is a "love story" that are the problem, but the chains of such low expectations.

We let ourselves fall victim to lame substitutes for love and happiness when, if we'd just move away from the screens, we might just discover the real thing. We become blind and deaf, dismissive of the simple beauty and sincere truth that is all around us. We become indifferent to the alternatives and angry at the challenges. We surrender our freedom, even as we talk about self-liberation.

In Shalit's book, she recounts a father confessing that he didn't want to interfere with his twin daughters' "budding sexuality" by stepping in when they were wearing inappropriate clothes, a mother refusing to get her daughter to brush her hair for fear of treading on the girls' dominion, and a teenager ending her life after explicit photos of her became public. These are all poison fruits of a culture that has lost sight of its greatest treasure: the human person and its inherent dignity and beauty.

Gershon Burd made a choice to sacrifice for others, including people he never met and didn't know. He knew he had something he could give that would better the lives of others in both small and dramatic ways. By doing so, he demonstrated the power of gratitude and generosity. He could have done otherwise, but there is something quite right about what he did. What his life proposes might be exactly what we most desire.

"(T)o me, the biggest virtue of modesty is the way it enables us to be our best selves in private," Shalit writes. Burd's life offers us a beautiful portrait of freedom, of stewardship of the gifts we have been given. Our modest imitation might just fill that void.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.