"I have seen personally what is the only beneficial and appropriate course of action for people: to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in all their hard work on earth during the few days of their life which God has given them, for this is their reward." (Ecclesiastes 5:18, NET)

November 14, 2016

Chicken Thursday

A white-haired veteran who had served 10 years in the Marine Corps said, "I try to have more hope than opinions." That gem of wisdom from Arthur might have contributed to him living a life with no regrets—a claim I've never heard from anyone else before.

I had the pleasure of meeting him during a visit to the spinal cord injury unit at the VA hospital, along with my friend and colleague Jasmine. We were there as part of a volunteer group.

Arthur’s roommates, Claiborne and Mr. Johnson, are both Army veterans who live in Louisiana. Claiborne served in the Korean War and Mr. Johnson served in Vietnam. (No disrespect intended. I just remember two first names and one last name, although one first name might actually be a last name.)

We brought them a box lunch from Jason’s Deli and a “Home of the Brave” T-shirt, both provided through our employer. The men appreciated those things, but clearly not as much as they appreciated our listening ears. We mostly just asked questions.

They seemed to relish telling their stories and giving us a glimpse of their lives. The men spoke of their infirmities only when asked and even then just briefly.

Everyone needs for someone to be interested in them, even if for just a little while. And how much more for veterans like these—away from home, away from family and friends, held captive in their beds.

After 4 months in the hospital, Arthur is hoping to go home in a few days. Claiborne and Mr. Johnson have been there most of the year and still have months to go.

Besides all of them being disabled vets with ongoing medical issues, they have much in common. For example, each one of them:
  • Raised a passel of "good kids"
  • Raved about Chicken Thursday
  • Had no complaints
  • Praised the hospital staff for the care they provide
  • Expressed gratitude for their many blessings
  • Welcomed our offer to pray over them
  • Thanked us for our visit as heartily as we thanked them for their service

To expound on a few of the bullet points above:
  • Arthur raised 8 kids, and Mr. Johnson raised 5 foster kids in addition to his own.
  • The second Thursday of each month, a charity provides Church’s fried chicken. God bless whoever does that. The men love it and really look forward to it.
  • Burly Mr. Johnson actually did have one complaint. It was about the always-steamed-never-seasoned hospital food, which in context was only to express how much he enjoyed that deli sandwich.

Mr. Johnson shared fond memories from long ago as well as from last month. He reminisced about taking his brood fishing in the Louisiana swamps when they were kids, beaming as he spoke of fishing poles sticking out of both sides of the car. He also spoke of his wife’s last monthly visit when she brought him gumbo and boudin. The way Mr. Johnson described her Cajun home cooking, it was as if he could almost taste it again in the retelling.

He hopes to go home in March, but said he’s not counting the days. He did express gratitude for the laptop and TV that helps him pass the time.

After Claiborne served his country, he served God as a minister until old age and health issues forced retirement. He has no legs, has undergone over 30 surgeries with more to come, and lost his wife this year. Yet Claiborne talked of God’s goodness, grace, and blessings.

Let me tell you, we had worship with this precious man. At the end of our visit, while the 3 of us clasped hands, leaned in close, and prayed, Claiborne kept whispering, “Yes, Lord. Thank you, Lord.”

Earlier, as Jasmine and I were walking toward the hospital entrance, she suggested we have a “No Whine November.” I agreed it was a good idea, though not confident I could pull it off. A scant 2 or 3 minutes later, a complaint rolled effortlessly off of my tongue. “No Whine November," I declared, "starts … now.” Pitiful.

How apropos that Jasmine would suggest this before we visited men who had reason to complain but didn’t.

And it’s a shame they don’t have more than Chicken Thursday to rave about. Why don’t more people do more for our veterans? Why don’t I?

Confession time. I’m good at giving when it’s easy.

Visiting the VA hospital was a company-sponsored event. I was encouraged to volunteer and driven there as a carpooler. It was during paid work hours. I was given a T-shirt to wear and a nice challenge coin as a new member of the Veterans Employee Network Group. And I was incredibly blessed by the veterans I met.

That’s a whole lot of receiving for a little bit of easy giving.

Something I’m really good at giving are my opinions. It’s easy with so many!

Now, thanks to Arthur, I aspire to have more hope than opinions. Because you tend to give what you have more of. And wouldn’t hope be a good thing to give?

Along with other needed things, of course, like a deli sandwich and a little time spent listening. Even when it's not convenient.

No comments:

Post a Comment