Our many wonderful and selfless volunteers, my son and I have been so busy from very early Thursday morning until very early this morning working in our warehouse to sort, stuff, wrap, label and get the first 2500 boxes and stockings to be flown to our US Army and US Marine Corps units stationed overseas for the holidays that had to be ready by noon.
We have been blessed this year with new sponsors that have filled our warehouse with everything possible on our “wish lists”. We still have 2500 of each to complete by Christmas Eve‘s flight plus the 4000 families and children for our seventh annual “Christmas is for Kids” programs for our state, our state prisons and states that house federal prisons and more and more individuals in my community are dropping off donations at my home-based office (every year my guys remove my furniture to storage and the overflow is sorted and wrapped from here and transported to our warehouse).
But getting home this morning at 4:00am, grabbing a couple hours sleep, having to be in court by 9:00am, heading to the airport to make sure that the fight was loaded and left on time and getting to my doctor’s appointment by 2:00pm, left me tired and weary. I wondered for a bit of contemplation that with all the tragedies, heartaches, needs and necessities in this world, were we even doing enough, why were we working so hard and diligently at a time of the year that we should be spending time with our families and friends celebrating and should we cut back on our holiday programs next year?
Then today, I met the reason for our season here at The Lighthouse for Recovery Ministries in a very quiet moment on a very busy street, as my son and I waited patiently at a bus stop to head home.
The bus finally arrived at our stop and the doors opened. Most of the embarking passengers were leaving by the rear door but there was this one lone man, taking tentative steps to get to the front of the bus to embark.
He was a young, muscular fellow that wore a hearty smile but you could tell that he was in pain, just by the slight grimace you heard as he tried to step down to the sidewalk. I could tell that this gentle soul had had an amputation of his left leg and it was recent by the short, stabbing movements as he tried to gain firm ground before putting his weight on his leg. He never once complained but turned to thank the man behind for his help and wished everyone a Very Merry Christmas.
As I looked down on his belt, blending in with other paraphernalia, he wore the flight tag of the U.S. Marine Corps, symbolizing his honor, integrity and selfless sacrifice and service to the military, his country and the preservation of mine and my family’s freedom from oppression.
The different branches of the military have “sibling rivalries” of who is the better soldier and what branch is the greatest of all, but as a US Army Vet and having commanded joint military units, there is always a special place in my heart for a Marine – they are usually the first to enter the battle zone and the last to leave.
As I looked into this man’s eyes, I did not see him as a Marine Grunt with lower rank – I saw the shining epitome of an officer, a man with no self-pity for his situation, determined to stick to his code of honor and carry forth, regardless of what the future would bring tomorrow.
Tears rolled down my face, as I stood at attention and saluted this hero, not giving a darn what other people around me thought, gave him a bear hug, thanked him for everything he stood for and the sacrifice he made in the service of others, and wished him the merriest of Christmas and told him to call me if he ever needed anything. All I could say was, Oohray! Semper Fi!
I boarded the bus and sat down in my seat and continued to cry because I knew my guardian angel had sent me the answer to my earlier questions during my self-pity party, and yes, if you make the difference in one person’s life on a daily basis, then you have done your job.
So tomorrow, we begin tackling the next part of our holiday programs to-do lists, but with the spirit that next year, we plan harder, start earlier and double our 2015 donations. As Jacob Marley, in a Christmas Carol”, so eloquently put it: Mankind is my business!