Salve for Souls

Monday, February 23, 2015

Superstore Hero

            The aisle in the store was packed with last minute Christmas shoppers and crammed with carts. I was among the shoppers and we had all claimed our space to pore over items on the shelves. I felt pressured and hurried, as I had other items to buy and when I got home, supper to cook.
            I didn't think even a fly could fit into that aisle until an elderly man seated in a motorized cart, managed to squeeze his way in.  Then he just parked there, only to sit and take up precious space.
            Everyone pushed around him as if he were invisible.  I tried to as well, but hemmed-in between his motorized cart and a display, I was trapped.
            Letting out an annoyed sigh, I briefly took notice of the man who had hindered my shopping.  He appeared somewhat disheveled, with his pants pulled down too low, revealing what appeared to be an adult diaper.
            Before I could turn away, he began talking.
            "You know, I've lived a charmed life …."
            My mind screamed.  "I don't have time to listen to this man's life story.  I've got so many things to do."
            Despite the shopping mayhem around us, he continued talking as if we were taking a leisurely stroll down a country path.
            "When I was serving in the South Pacific, I took a walk along the shore and picked up a small object from the sand.  Something about it didn't seem right, so I threw it in the ocean."
            At this point, I began to think of this man as more than an interruption.  He was likely a World War II veteran, part of the "Greatest Generation," who had served in the Pacific Theater.  I tried to imagine him a young warrior, storming the shores of Iwo Jima.  Now here he was, wearing an adult diaper, sitting almost helplessly in a motorized shopping cart.
            He continued with his story.
            "That night, I remembered a training film our troops were shown about dangers in the South Pacific.  One of them was that object I had picked up from the beach.  If it was held for more than a minute, it would release a poison that could kill a man."
            The elderly gentleman went on to tell me a couple of other ways in which his life was spared.
            "Someone's been watching out for you," I told him.
            He nodded.  "Like I said, I've lived a charmed life."
            After we parted, I was glad I had paused to listen.  I remembered the times I had felt like a ghost trying to break through from another realm, as others spoke.  So often, I just want to be heard, as did the man in the store.  Only God knows how many stories and adventures are locked up inside this hero.
            In Luke 6:31, we read the words of Jesus.  "Do to others as you would have them do to you" (NIV).
            I haven't always succeeded at this, but maybe a part of it, is giving that one lonely person the gift of a listening ear.
World War II's Greatest Generation is featured in "The Face Behind the Veil" by Flora Reigada

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