I was watching a television program that followed a company CEO as he went “undercover” in his own company, working with people at various levels to ascertain what improvements could be implemented to make the company better.
One of the employees was a truck driver who drove to locations in the dead of night, delivering goods for the next day’s customers. Not the most glamorous job in the world, but watching and listening to this immigrant employee from Kazakhstan, you would have thought he had won the lottery. He was positive, motivated, and yes, he was happy. He told the disguised CEO that he came to the United States a few years back with fifty dollars in his pocket and now, “Look at me, I am living the American dream!”
Yes, the driver worked all night while his wife worked days. “No problem,” he said, as he and his wife only saw each other two days a week, never giving them time to fight, only time to be in love.
He had two children. “That had to be hard,” the CEO pressed, “with the financial pressures and time constraints of raising children with two working parents.” The driver laughed and said how great it was to know his children had a decent school to attend and in a country where they were safer and healthier than the country from where he had emigrated.
“America is the best country!” he proclaimed.
To Thank and Be Thankful
I look at the never-ending social media posts, from both the right and the left, complaining about the state of affairs here. I have to admit I’ve made my fair share of them as well. I thought about that smiling truck driver and I suddenly felt like the boy who’s eaten too much chocolate pie; complaining about my stomach ache, but still demanding to know if there’s any more dessert left.
Memorial Day is a chance we have to do two things: to thank and to be thankful.
Many a man and woman, far better than I will ever be, made the ultimate sacrifice. Some made it for the man lying beside them in a fighting hole; some made it out of a sense of being part of an idea larger than themselves. Others made it quietly, facing death and darkness alone with equal amounts of fear and anguish. I’m reminded of the words spoken in a prayer late at night, alone in a garden, “Father, if it is your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, your will must be done, not mine.”
In Ink and Blood
Going through the Oakland airport ten years ago, I saw an old man in a wheelchair, wearing a blue ball cap with “USS Indianapolis” emblazoned in gold letters. I walked up to him and thanked him for his service. He smiled and handed me a small piece of paper, shook my hand, and told me he was one of a handful of men still alive on their way to the ship’s crew reunion. Many of us know the story of the Indianapolis from that scene in Jaws. How different it must be to hear it from a parent or grandparent. When I opened the paper, it was a hand written poem the man had penned as part of his speech for the upcoming event. History, written in ink and blood.
A Time to Remember Thankfulness
Tonight, I write this after hanging up the phone with my son. We both said we love each other before the call ended. In the last ten years, I’ve stood over the caskets of too many of his brothers not to know how precious the chance is to profess that love. Certainly, the last few years have been a challenge for many of us, but unlike so many parents who will never have the chance to tell their Marine they love him, I can, and do, every chance I get.
My friend, John DiMuro, reminds me regularly that his grandfather always said, “Any problem that can be solved with money isn’t really that big of a problem.” As a physician, he’s had to deliver the news to many people that despite all their planning and saving, their time on Earth is limited to the next few months—or weeks.
Every day can be Memorial Day. Every day, we can choose to remember that so much has been done for us, given to us, with no bill due for services rendered. We have the chance to live each day as it was intended, to its fullest as a gift given today, but not guaranteed tomorrow. We can make the choice to be that little boy, demanding more chocolate pie or we can be the bearer of a servant’s heart.
To my friends Jimmy, David, Grayson, and Robert: Rest easy, brothers, you gave it your all.
To the men I’ve known, John, Heath, Nathan, Jeremy, Daniel, Rick, and too many others: Thank you for your gifts and God bless your families for sharing you with us.
Happy Memorial Day.