Saturday, November 10, 2012

Encouraging Words on Veterans Day

 Real Hero by Jaye Lewis

            I only noticed him out of the corner of my eye.  I knew he was a Marine from the cut of his uniform, with its tightly pressed military creases.  Then I heard him, speaking low, with a kind of hiss.  He was not speaking to me.  He was speaking to my sergeant, who was the Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) in charge of the Military Information Booth at San Francisco International Airport.  I served with her there as a U.S Navy WAVE during the Vietnam War.
            I heard his tortured attempt to speak.  "Hep nee, peesss!" I understood him, “Help me, please!”  He struggled with every word.  I was grabbing my purse to take a much needed break, but I was caught by his struggle to make himself understood.  I could hear the irritation in the sergeant's voice as she demanded that he "speak up!"
            I paused as he began again, "I-nee-to-change-ny-tickek!"
            I understood every painful word he said.  He needed to change his ticket.  What was wrong with my NCO?
            "I CAN'T understand you!" she said, irritated.  "Speak up!"
            How rude! I thought, as I turned to put down my purse.  I then looked at him, as he again struggled to be understood.  No wonder he struggled.  Before me stood a tall, strong Marine officer, perfect in his pristine uniform, missing half his jaw!  My God, I thought!  What is she thinking?!
            "Excuse me, Sir.  I can help you," I said.  Without thinking, I shoved my sergeant aside and maneuvered my way in front of her.  I could see the man's teeth through the wire that held his face together.  I was of little importance, just a lowly seaman apprentice.  However, I knew what this man needed -- someone who cared enough to listen.  I studied his eyes.  I saw the pain, and I felt his humiliation.  Soul to soul, I knew what to do.  I smiled a big, welcoming smile.
            "Yes, Sir!  How can I help you?"
            Slowly and painfully the words, tortured and slurred, escaped from his wired mouth.  I listened with all my heart, and I watched his eyes.  I prayed to God to help me understand him.  And I did!  More than I can express.  I gave him the directions he needed, and his eyes smiled his thanks.  When he walked away I called a friend at one of the airlines who adopted him immediately, by personally attending to his needs.
            I thanked God for this opportunity to help a real hero; however, I also knew I was in trouble.  As I looked at my sergeant, I felt anger rise in me -- at her rudeness and total lack of sensitivity.  She studied me for a moment, her eyes narrowing.
"I could put you on report,"  she said, showing no emotion.
"…and, I could put YOU on report for insubordination to an officer," I retorted, my eyes spitting fire.  I hurled the stack of  blank “report sheets” towards her.  "Be my guest!" I said, as I grabbed my purse.  "I'll be on break." And I left.
            I went on to supper, because I knew it would be a long night.  I was troubled, now that my "dander" was down, at the thought of going before a “Captain's Mast”, or hearing, to explain my insubordination to an NCO.  I was certain it would be very unpleasant. 
As I neared the United Airlines counter, I saw him again.  His luggage was being checked, and his back was towards me.  Then, as though someone had told him where I was, he turned, and he looked at me.  Our eyes met for an eternity.  Then I smiled.
            This soldier and hero, in the United States Marine Corps, pulled himself up to his full height, and with all the military perfection in his being, he gave me a sharp, military salute.  I was thrilled!  WAVES did not salute indoors, especially when we were not wearing our cover or hat, but I pulled myself to attention and returned that salute.
            Moving on to the cafeteria, I walked a little taller, and I felt a little older.  In one small encounter I had grown from a twenty-one year old girl into a twenty-one year old woman.  And, truth be told, I felt more like a lady than I ever had before in my whole life!  I felt... just a little bit... like a hero.

© Jaye Lewis, 2001

Friday, November 02, 2012

Encouraging Words When All Else Fails by Jaye Lewis

Hurricane Sandy.  There it was, bearing down on us from the Atlantic, like some mythical dragon beast.  Surely it would swallow us up, and we would be consumed!  What could we do?  Prepare, they said.  Get supplies.  Water.  Non-perishable food -- they always show jars of peanut butter and white bread, and the inevitable box of crackers, as though you will somehow have enough to sustain you with that pittance.  What are they thinking?  Does that make them sleep better?  It was laughable and tragic, especially now, since even the most prepared provisions have floated out to sea.

So, what should we do, especially if we live near the coast?  Well, living near the coast requires preparation of a different kind.  It requires making friends with someone far from the coast.  If nothing else start a bank account far from the coast, and put regular deposits in it.  Be faithful in this.  Your life, and the lives of those you love could depend on it. Believe the weather reports.  Go far inland.  Flee farther than the storm front.  This storm covered a third of our country.  Even parts of Ohio had blizzards.  Lake Michigan had huge waves.  West Virginia had huge blizzards.  I believe people just didn't believe.  So, in the future, you'd better believe.

You know how on T.V., you always hear crime or storm victims say, "I never thought it could happen to me?"  Well, I am one of those people who believe, if it's going to happen, it's probably going to happen to me.  I'm a fatalist.  So, what do I depend on?  If it's going to happen, then why not give up?  Why not just stand on the beach and let the waves overtake me?  What do I do when all else fails?

I depend on God.  That's it.  It's as simple as that.  I pray.  I talk to God as I am talking to you.  I tell Him of my fears.  I tell Him of my sorrows.  I ask Him to protect me.  I ask Him to keep me safe, and if I am to die, I ask that He take care of those whom I love.  I ask Him to come for me, and to carry me home in His arms.  Then, because I am human; because I cannot help myself; because I know He never tires of me, I tell Him again.

Lord, I'm afraid.  Since we are on the cold side of the storm, in the mountains, I know we are going to get lots of snow.  You know that big tree that I love so much, Lord?  The one that I love to take pictures of?  Well, Lord, I'm afraid it's going to fall on us.  One good, stiff wind and it's going to fall on the house.  If it falls on the house, there goes the deck, and the roof, and the fireplace, and that whole end of the living room.  We could all be hurt, Lord.  We could die.  I'm not ready to die, Lord.  Lord, I'm afraid. Lord, I'm afraid. Lord, I'm afraid.  Help me, Lord.  Help me to be unafraid.  Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.

I went on Facebook, and I asked my friends to pray for me, those who were in safe areas. They were already praying and sending messages.  Social media can be a good and positive thing.  Prayer works.  God is there.  He always has been.  He has never needed television. He has never needed email.  He has never needed social media.  He is THE social media.  I think all these things are great and helpful.  I depend on my friends.  I talk to them nearly every day.  I keep in touch with them, all over the world.  They are the friends of my heart.  We are connected through our love for one another.  That is a blessing.  But, when all else fails, I depend on Him.

For us in southwestern Virginia, the snowstorm was slight.  It began to melt very quickly.  The tree did not fall.  The wind was reasonable.  My fear, although noticeable, was manageable.  God did not fail me.  I'm sure I failed Him, but He did not fail me.  He is my hiding place.  He is my port in the storm.  He is the glue that holds me together, and He is my everything when all else fails.

I hope that as you read this, no matter your situation in life, that you will consider that nations and governments will fail you.  Family and friends will fail you.  You will even fail yourself.  But God will always be there to catch you when you fall.  He is the Father who stands in the deep end of the pool, and when you jump, He is waiting with outstretched arms to catch you and keep you safe, no matter what happens in the end.  I hope you will turn to Him in your fear and in your failings, and I hope you will believe in Him, the way He believes in You.

Father in heaven, there is much suffering now, throughout the northeastern United States, especially New Jersey and New York.  But each person who reads this has suffering in his or her life.  There is illness and loss of every kind.  I ask you now, Lord, to touch their lives in an intimate way, so that they may know you as I do, and they may know that they are not alone.  I pray, Lord, that they may turn to You when all else fails.  In Your Holy Name.  Amen.

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