31 Oct In Gratitude
John pulled his tired and old frame back into the airport wheelchair, his old legs nearly giving out. He wasn’t as strong as he used to be! The trip to the airport in Colorado Springs had been hard enough. The plane aisle was hard to navigate; the seat was smaller than he remembered. “When did they make these seats so small?” he thought. His 89-year old body complained at every bump, jostle, and adjustment. His daughter was with him which made everything easier…except that dang toilet! Why…he had more space on the troop ship in ’42 when they went across the Pacific! Now, here he was, crawling off the plane and into an airport wheelchair in the hot, muggy ramp entering Reagan National Airport in Arlington, VA asking himself, with each painful move, why in the world had he come?
His daughter had begged him to go. Said they wanted to show him the World War II monument in DC. Who was “they” anyway? “They” had paid his way, so he decided he would go. After all, at 89, he didn’t feel he could make many more trips like this again.
Coming up the ramp he noticed there were a lot of people and a lot of crowds. “Is it always this crowded in the terminal these days?” It is mighty noisy too…like someone special was coming. Then he saw the sign…
“Welcome WWII Veterans! We Honor You.”
Tears welled up in his eyes. Energy flowed back into tired bones. They were clapping for HIM! There were signs and kids and cheers and smiles and more cheers. Strangers slapped him on the back and climbed over to shake his hand to say thank you. A sharp looking line of young Marines saluted his entrance while his daughter, with tear streaked face, was doing her best to let everyone touch him, see him, and thank him. His heart was melting…melting under the warmth of gratitude and memories.
Recently, a friend of mine participated in the arrival of an ‘Honor Flight’. Many of us who fly regularly have had the privilege of seeing aging veterans from around the country fly in to spend a couple of days touring Washington DC. In the arrival halls of local airports, World War II vets in their 90’s, Korean War vets in their 80’s, and Vietnam War vets in their 60’s and 70’s are greeted by cheering volunteers, and young recruits from all branches of service. My friend and her small children were part of the cheering team and encouraged unsuspecting passengers to join the community of clappers. Many participants are brought to tears by the whole event; our nation showing gratitude to those who gave so much to protect our freedoms. The back of Honor Flight volunteer t-shirts bear a quote from Will Rogers: “Not all of us can be heroes, some of us stand on the curb and clap.”
The Bible passage 1st Thessalonians 1:1-5 reminds us that today’s heroes deserve a great round of applause from the sidewalks of our nation. Not only do we honor veterans on November 11th, we also honor the everyday heroes who have persevered in the face of all kinds of storms and trials. From the search and rescue teams saving hundreds in flood ravaged Houston, animal rescue workers saving pets from back to back hurricanes in Florida, utility company employees still working to bring power to Puerto Rico, policemen and trauma centers saving lives in these areas as well as the manmade disaster of the Las Vegas massacre, to firefighters who continue to battle blazes in California and the West, we join the chorus found in Scripture:
We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering
you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith
and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.
These men and women were once on the sidelines clapping for heroes that came before. Today we recognize them as heroes. They labor to serve those most in need of help; those most in need to see God in action through acts of human faith, hope and love.
While veterans and rescue workers have been singled out as heroes, there are some heroes in homes across the country who care for loved ones battling cognitive and degenerative disabilities. These home bound heroes are close to my heart this month, as I remember helping my mom care for her husband who died on their wedding anniversary just last year. We were so fortunate that Bob became more gentle, more dignified and more grateful each day we cared for him. Despite his graciousness, being a caregiver is never easy. Mom and I had each other to lean on, and a community of friends to gather around us. Even with all this support, we often found ourselves emotionally and physically exhausted, and so grateful for the respite that our home care workers gave us. They bathed and dressed Bob and taught us more than a few secrets of the trade to make him more comfortable in his final days. Bob could stay home with us, and we were able to care for him, while loved and supported by professionals who knew exactly what we were going through.
Our First Thessalonians passage ends: “Our Gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in the power of the Holy Spirit, with much conviction”. ACCfamily honors this conviction by commending veterans, first responders, and caregivers. The Honor Flight volunteers are the Gospel in action: they know how to love and serve the veterans of war. Our disaster response teams are Gospel in action: they know how to love and serve those traumatized by natural and man-made disasters. Our ACCfamily caregivers are Gospel in action: they know how to love and serve YOUR family, helping as you care for your loved ones.