“OK guys, before we start, I really think I should tell you something. For whatever reason, my gut is in an uproar and I’ve got an oh so wickedly bad case of gas. In fact, it was so bad on the way in, I had to roll down the car windows. I know, too much information (TMI), but that’s not my point. What I’m trying to say is if you see me move away from you mid-conversation, you’ll know what just happened.” Grinning, both guys on my squad each gave me their own version of “Been there, done that. Appreciate the heads-up”.
But I wasn’t done. “But on the other hand, if you see Jim trap me into listening to one of his never ending stories and he moves away from me before he’s done? You’ll know what just happened.”
We may be grown men, but now we’re all laughing like hyenas because at one time or another, each one of us had been trapped by Jim’s stories-with-no-point and each of us remembered when being the gassy one was not cool. But tonight, even though I couldn’t help what was happening, both realities were converging as one on the side of Good.
Now that my guys knew what was going on in my gut (and out from there), all three of us had a sense of gleeful anticipation that unexpectedly energized the monotony of taking inventory. If I were all that politically correct, I wouldn’t admit it, but I’m not. So for once, on this day, I was hoping Jim sought me out. So were Brad and Mike. There was something that made me grin at the idea of causing Jim to seriously consider making a call to the EPA to report my haz-mat situation. Yes, it was both wicked and silent – both in delivery and in grins all around, but come on folks…you can’t make this stuff up. Could you ask for a better gift than that?
All of which got me to thinking about gifts.
If it is your birthday, you know the presents. They are wrapped in brightly colored paper and have your name on them. Same thing during the holidays. Between the ribbons and bows, you know you’ve got a gift because (duh) it has your name all over it…literally.
I’ve heard it said that we all have our gifts. It’s true. My grandpa used to tell me I had the gift for gab (along with sharing his twisted sense of humor). Maybe yours is having the most organized pantry or maybe, having the most disorganized pantry and still knowing where the garlic salt is hiding. Which is less of a talent? Whatever ‘it’ is, we’ve all got gifts for something and this week, I’m wondering if the biggest surprise of all is recognizing that something mundane (or gaseous) might actually be a gift in wolf’s clothing.
Some gifts are of a very high order. While not even in the same league, there’s enough of a spirit of Service in me that helps me recognize a kindred Spirit in Kayla Mueller. Mueller, 26, was reported dead this week after being taken hostage in Syria by terrorists back in August of 2013. Every time I heard the reports on the news, my practical brain was saying, ‘What was she doing there?’ But the larger part of me was thinking how lucky I was to understand in my gut how there is no greater display of Love’s power than when someone lays down their life for another…’another’ they might not even know. I take you to one press account of Ms. Mueller’s story:
“Images of children suffering in the early stages of Syria’s ongoing civil war prompted Mueller, 26, to leave her home in Prescott, Ariz., in December, 2012, to work with the Danish Refugee Council and the humanitarian organization Support to Life to help refugees. According to a family spokesperson, Kayla found the work heartbreaking but compelling.
“For as long as I live, I will not let this suffering be normal, something we just accept,” Mueller told her hometown newspaper, The Daily Courier, in a 2013 interview during a trip home to her family. “It’s important to stop and realize what we have, why we have it and how privileged we are. And from that place, start caring and get a lot done.”
She was captured on Aug. 4, 2013, in Aleppo, Syria, while leaving a Spanish hospital staffed by the international humanitarian group Doctors without Borders.
Unlike other Islamic State captives killed by the group after their ransom demands were spurned, Mueller has not been featured on any hostage videos in which the terror army’s prisoners, under obvious duress, denounce the West and plead for their lives. In some cases, intelligence officials have determined the hostages were killed long before the Islamic State militants claimed, raising the possibility that Mueller was already dead.”
But lest you think me extreme, most of our gifts are not about dying. Most of the really good ones (even the ones we don’t know we have) come from inside us. They have everything to do with living.
Case in point was a guy named Blake Pollock, a banker no less, who began recognizing the same guy during his own commute. The guy, whoever he was, was always walking one way or the other and in all kinds of weather. There had to be a reason. Who walks like that without some purpose to it? So one day, Pollock stopped and offered the guy a ride. What made him do it? Though I don’t compare what I couldn’t help stop from happening at work the other day, I’d like to think Pollock couldn’t help it either. Curiosity? Higher guidance? We may never know, but what Pollock didn’t know (yet) was the walking guy’s name was James Robertson, a factory worker in Detroit whose car had died some 10-years earlier. James loved his job and the people there. Robertson’s company called him their Gold Standard when it came to attendance…he was always there on time. But on $10.55 an hour, cars don’t grow on trees so he did what anyone would do. He walked.
In the weeks and months that followed, Mr. Pollock doubled down on his initial impulse by occasionally giving Robertson a ride when the opportunity presented itself. It was during that time he learned that in order to get back and forth to work, Robertson rode several buses and walked 21-miles in between…every day! So what did Pollock do?
He did what he could. To his credit, Pollock acted on another impulse and called the Sunday Detroit Free Press, telling them about this work-a-day hero and they liked it. They had the space so they ran with the story. That’s good. Right?
Online, others began to read about the solo walks of James Robertson. True, none of them knew Robertson. None of them were necessarily driving along the walking path of our intrepid hourly worker. They weren’t physically there to give him a ride. But they were there online, reading about his story. And all because a banker (of all people) had followed an impulse and called the newspaper.
I’m sorry, but keep waiting for it…it still gets better.
Now enter Evan Leedy, a 19-year old college student. He couldn’t get Robertson’s solitary story of grit and determination out of his head. Yeah, I know, big deal (sic). A 19-year old kid couldn’t seem to shake a fleeting story out of his imagination. Nothing earth shattering about that, now is there? Nothing at all except that Leedy had a PC and an impulse (whim or Higher guidance?) which prompted him to spend a part of an afternoon launching an online GoFundMe.com fund raiser website. OK, props to the college kid, but we’re not done yet.
At the time of this writing, that one-off urge to start a web page for James has raised over $310,000 ($US).
Are you out of breath yet? Good, gasp on because we’re not done yet.
A local Ford dealership read about the walking wonder of James Robertson.
So did the Ford Motor Company.
So when Pollack and Leedy brought Robertson into the dealership on the pretext of him finally being able to buy a car, guess what?
They gave him a brand new one! Free.
But the Cosmos, for all Her silence is a show-off. She wasn’t done with Mr. Robertson.
With the money the college kid helped to raise and organized by his new friend, the banker, there is now a small group of highly trained (and committed) professionals gathered to help Mr. Robertson manage his windfall so that he can 1) finally retire and 2) open his own fix-it business to help Detroit homeowners get their homes repaired. From what I read, it’s all he’s ever dreamed of…an honest heart with mad skills helping the people around him.
So you see, no one person can do it all. Not even Mr. Robertson and not even you. It’s not the way any of this cosmic chemistry works. And truth be told, the thing that resonates with me the most is how many times (even now) I’ve been chased by thoughts of thinking I wasn’t able to do much of anything at all.
And besides, even if we could, who would care?
This just in from the Newsroom. Do not RSVP to your own Pity Party. The guest list is very small and the food generally sucks.
I continually learn that there is always, absolutely always, something I can do that comes down on the side of Good. It may not seem like much. In fact, most of the time, it doesn’t seem like anything at all. And sometimes (like the other day at work), it may seem like you can’t help from doing it, but you do it anyway. That, my fine sojourners, is all that is ever required of any of us.
You may not ever go to the lengths Kayla did when she moved herself to Syria as the road to follow her convictions. But she did. And now she’s likely dead. But she died believing what was right and true. I’m stunned to see the gleam of Service flickering up in the eyes of the young people around me as they read of her Spirit and her sacrifice. And it’s not just here. Doctors without Borders, the Peace Corps, even young woman who are now looking at a vocation as nuns in the Catholic Church. When was the last time we felt a breeze like that blowing through our landscape?
Maybe you’re a banker and you could write a check to the Red Cross. But what you did was choose to follow some crazy instinct and give a working man a ride.
In those moments, you saw something no one else did. And then, as half-baked as it might seem to others, you did what you could with what you had to make it a little better. No brass bands. It was just the right thing to do.
I will confess, the older I get, the more I realize how little the Cosmos needs from us to unleash all it has in store for us. All it asks for is for us to vote with our actions…to do something. That’s it. One little spark. And the kicker is none of us are ever promised we’ll see the resulting bonfire. All Pollack was doing was giving some guy a ride that might need one. He never planned on having his picture taken. In fact, chances are very, very good none of us will ever have the privilege of seeing all the ripple effects from the fuse our one little spark lit.
But now to the pay-off and the secret news no terrorist, bully or bigot ever wants you to know. The scientific fact of the matter is all it takes to start an explosion is one little spark. That’s it. And that is why, precisely why, Hatred, Hunger and Bigotry all fear Love so much. All their work. All the death and suffering – all of that effort and mayhem – all of it pales in the face of one solitary act of Love.
Like me at work, you might think all you’ve got going for you in the gift department is a bad case of gas. But humor me and consider the possibilities if you were to take an extra moment or two this week and check down in your gut for a gift that is exactly what someone else needs in that particular place and time.
Yes. I promise you your inside gift is not likely to be wrapped in bright paper or carry a name tag, but none of those traditional trappings are required. All that’s needed from you, me or any of us is to have that one little spark that lights just a little bit of gas in order for Love to work miracles in its oh so silent and deadly way.
If not then, when? If not you, who? What are you waiting for? No butts.
CLICK the album cover and you’ll hear, it is going to get easier.
Foul Fish: This Fart Sounds Site © by Chuck Ayoub – http://www.fart-sounds.net/; Kayla Mueller: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/02/07/isis-claims-jordanian-airstrikes-killed-us-aid-worker/; James Robertson: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2943514/Touching-moment-dedicated-factory-worker-trudged-21-miles-work-day-foot-couldn-t-afford-car-breaks-tears-s-gifted-brand-new-Ford-Taurus.html; And my thanks to Detroit’s Sunday Free Press for its’ remarkable coverage: http://www.freep.com/story/opinion/readers/2015/02/06/james-robertson-detroit/23015921/; Guy Smelling: http://www.camping-gas.com/information/LPG/LPG-Gas.php
– ## –