Sacrifices

Memorial Day has come and gone. One thing, however, remains. . . the sacrifices men and women have made in the service of our great country. The maimed bodies, the memory of those who died will go on forever.
My wife and I live in one of those tracts of homes with more than one way to reach the main streets to go somewhere. I usually drive the one headed south. Last night we drove the other direction. There, just around the corner from our home, was a display on the front lawn. My throat tightened. I’ll admit I had to wipe at my eyes. What did I see?
A pair of empty combat boots resting atop a field locker, and behind them a rough cross.
Thank you for your sacrifice.

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Heros

We almost always think of firemen as heroes. Right now thousands of them are fighting wildfires across the land; saving people, saving homes, saving animals. Back almost eleven years ago thousands of them rushed into two burning towers to save as many as they could. And in the process many gave their lives. Heroes all. Last week I learned of a whole firehouse filled with a sixty year history of being heroes.
Tony was thirteen when he first wandered into Fire Station One in Lansing, Michigan. Tony was hungry and alone that day. Tony was also mentally challenged. Those firemen fed him and before they sent him on his way they asked if he’d like to come back sometime when he was hungry again.
“Yeah,” he said. And the next day he returned. And the next. And the next.
It’s now sixty years later. Tony has a job that fits his limited capabilities, and a place where he sleeps, but home is at Fire Station One. The men there are his family. But, to me, those firemen are heroes. Heroes all. The men of First Station One saved Tony as sure as if they’d pulled him from a burning house.
It often doesn’t take much to be a hero. Sometimes a kind hand up, a pat on the back, a meal to someone who’s hungry, a caring heart can make you a hero.

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Mean People

The other day when my wife and I were driving to the grocery store a lady cut us off. Did she mean to? Did she even see us? I don’t know. The event, however, began a conversation.
Why does is seem that people are meaner now than they used to be? Could it be because the economy is bad and they feel like life has dealt them a bad hand? Could it be because the politicians on both sides of any issue believe attacking their opponent is the way to win people over to their way of thinking?
The issue took center stage the other day when the You Tube video surfaced of 7th graders bullying an elderly school bus monitor. Then the news reported that some people, rightly incensed by the pre-teen’s actions, started making threats to the kids and their parents. Didn’t they think that more bullying doesn’t help the situation?
Maybe mean spiritedness and bullying has grown because it seems like everyone is doing it. Is there a solution?
I have an idea. If everyone who reads this refrains from that mean-spirited remark (or action) and instead performs an undeserving act of kindness for one person each day you will create a small oasis of joy. It might not last forever, but it will make a joyful moment for both of you.
As the movie critic on some TV channel says, “I’m in!”

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Crossing the Finish Line

His parents and his friends call him Matt. He’s eleven and a student at Colonial Hills Elementary in Ohio. Even though he knew it would be hard for him he wanted to run in a race. Everyone told him not to, but he insisted. The problem, you see – Matt has cerebral palsy.
I saw Matt race – isn’t the Internet a wonderful thing when it can bring us closer together.
By the time Matt reached the halfway mark, everyone else had crossed the finish line. Matt struggled on, his arms flailing, his feet stumbling forward. He looked as though he’d collapse on the track. Then something marvelous happened. The P-E teacher, his coach ran onto the track at Matt’s side. He patted him on the back, told him he could make it all the way. With the renewed energy from encouragement, Matt charged ahead with his awkward stride. Then the other runners joined him. Together as a band of brothers they ran with him until he crossed the finish line.
Everyone won that day at Colonial Hills Elementary and I was reminded again of two truths. We need to keep on keeping on, to never quit. And when our friends, or family, or yes – even strangers need a little help we can never know how much we’ve helped. It might be just enough for them to cross the finish line.

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Memorial Day

A few days ago I watched a large plane come in low over our home. Since I live only about eight miles from the end of the runway of March Reserve Airbase seeing a large aircraft isn’t unusual. Every day C-17s and KC-135s fly over. But this particular plane was different. I bit my lip and my eyes welled up as it flew in on final approach. This plane was white DC-10,under contract to the military. I knew it nearly 300 men and women filled that plane. Men and women coming home from Afghanistan. Coming home. Away from RPGs and IEDs. Coming home to families and lovers, to spouses and children. I breathed a little prayer of thanks for their safe return.

On the other side of this great country of ours there are people who live in the flight path of another air field. Dover AFB. Some of the planes landing there carry the flag draped coffins of our military who have paid the ultimate price so you and I can live free.
Today, Memorial Day, I salute them all.

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Joy and Heartache

I’ve spent the past few weeks going through the labyrinth of my mind… sweeping out the cobwebs, trying to pick of the pieces of a long neglected blog. Truth be told the time-frame has been more like months. The muse from ‘The Storyman in a Rabbit Hole’ vanished. So where do I begin? Probably nowhere better than the juxtaposition of joy and sadness.
About a week ago, I held in my hand the first proof copy of my newest mystery novel, Body in the Lake. A long stint of hard work and numerous rewrites had come to fruition. What did I feel? Joy and satisfaction at reaching the milestone. That proof copy is now with an editor for a final review – and undoubtedly a few suggestions to improve the punctuation and word flow. Soon (in book time that’s a month or so) it will be born and begin its journey of being read and reviewed.
Then a day later, my joy evaporated. I sat beside the hospital bed of my niece. She was worse than ill. Liver and kidney failure. Her organs dying within her. I held her hand and told her for the hundredth time I loved her. She squeezed my fingers ever so slightly. My wife leaned over and kissed her. I said, “We love you, Sandy.” It would be the last time we saw her. Two hours later, we received a phone call. Sandy, in her husband’s embrace, slipped away. Tears of sadness come to my eyes as I write this.
How to make sense of it all. Just the events of life. One brings joy in its wake, the other profound sadness. There is only one thing to do. Go forward. Enjoy the good and suffer the bad, knowing that in the ever turning circle of life – somewhere around the corner from despair… is JOY.
In this place from time to time, I’ll share a thought or two. Some serious, some a bit inane. For sure – a little variety to stimulate the gray cells. Until next time…
The Storyman

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