I love this time of year! Somehow, the holidays help me regain my focus. I always begin the New Year charged up and committed to a better me. At times like these I reflect on how lucky I am and how the world is full of blessings and heroes. I met one recently. Allow me to explain.
It was a Saturday and I had made a trip to the post office. When I got there, the place was in a total stir. They had closed early leaving the customers to weigh their own packages and to buy stamps from the vending machines. Because this was new to most of us, things were moving slowly. Lines were long and tempers were short. No one was in a good mood.
As I stamped my letters, an old man walked through the door. He looked to be in his mid 80’s. He was bent at the waist and could barely walk. It took him forever to cross the floor and arrive at the postage scales. It was painful to watch him move.
I must confess that I tried to finish before his presence could inconvenience me. I don’t know why I was in such a hurry. I just didn’t want to wait. I didn’t want this guy to interfere with my ability to get to my next trivial task.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watched him struggle with the scales. He had a large magnifying glass and he was trying to read the display. People waiting behind him were losing their patience. Like me, they were all resenting him holding them up. None of us seemed willing to share the post office with this guy…this veteran.
For some reason I spoke to him. I asked if I could help him with what he was doing. He said that I could. A thirty something woman behind him exhaled in disgust and left the post office in a huff. Obviously, she had very important matters waiting elsewhere. This guy was really causing a problem.
“What are we trying to do?” I asked. “I’m trying to mail this book to a friend in Texas,” he explained. “I have arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, so I can’t do much,” he added. “I can’t read the scales either.”
I asked if I could help him address the package. He said yes and explained that it was a book on B-24 bombers. He was mailing it to a friend in Texas. The two of them flew together in World War II. They had not seen each other in 44 years.
He told me how his granddaughter found this guy’s address on the Internet. “She’s real smart,” he said. “She knows how to find the address of anybody in the whole country just by typing their name,” he added. “Then she went on the Internet and ordered this book. We got it in the mail the very next day. Have you ever heard of such a thing?” he asked.
As I purchased the necessary postage and stamped his package he told me what a thrill it was to find his old friend. They had been talking on the phone and he had decided to send him this book. His face lit up like the sun as he talked about their phone conversations and the missions they flew during the war. He really loves and misses his friend.
By the time we finished, the post office was empty. He turned to say thanks and offered to give me his left over stamps. I refused and told him that I should be thanking him. There was no way to repay the debt that we all owe him and his fellow veterans.
As he left, he turned, snapped to attention and saluted. It was all I could do to choke back the lump in my throat. This man was proud of his service to us. He took it seriously. We should too.
So…it’s the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas. What are you thankful for? I’m thankful for many things. One is my mother who cried every time the flag passed in a parade. Her blood ran red, white and blue. She taught all of her children pride in family and country. I appreciate that.
I’m also thankful for our servicemen. I include those serving today and all that have put it on the line for us in the past. I’m also thankful for the old soldier that “couldn’t do much.” Thanks for the gift you gave us all before I was even born. Thanks also for the gift of your need when I was nearby. I’m glad I was the one to receive it.
What does all of this have to do with printing and publishing? Absolutely nothing, unless you consider our right to do it. Nothing unless you include the fact that we’re free to write what we think even if it is against policy. You’ll have to answer that question for yourself.