Remembering for Pete’s sake

pexels-photo-41135.jpegHis name was Pete and he was a stranger to us.

Alone, he entered the little corner restaurant where my sister and I were enjoying lunch, paused at our table, and announced, “You girls were waiting for me to come join you, weren’t you?”

Now my sister and I aren’t exactly “girls” anymore, but to this older gentleman, we must have appeared to be young ‘uns.  We smiled at him, joked “Sure!” and laughed as he moseyed to the lunch counter and sat down.   He ordered from the menu and turned around to speak to us once more.

We chatted a little, then he began telling us a story.  We asked him to join us at our table as it was easier for him to converse that way.   While he sipped his hot tea and waited for his meal, he talked.  And he talked.  And he shared some interesting narratives about his life.

He relayed stories of his wife, who died five years ago, a wife he loved dearly, so much so that he still sports his wedding band on his left hand.  He shared accounts of their travels to far off places like Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii to name a few.

He made us laugh and when we rewarded him with our laughter, he would say, “Now, you’re not gonna believe this but it’s true.  And this one’s really gonna make you laugh!”  And he’d treat us to another story or two or three.

We listened to anecdotes about his family, childhood, work, and even bowling accomplishments and dancing.    Tales of yore rolled off his tongue in between bites of his hamburger and deep-fried mushrooms.

He was the youngest in a family of eight – the baby of the family.  I mentioned that I was the baby of my family too, and he replied, “Well, hello there, baby!”  I retorted back, “Hello to you too, baby!”

And we laughed some more – the three of us.  But his last story was a serious one, and one that definitely warranted remembering and sharing.

One of his older brothers served as a medic in World War II and that’s where the story began.  His brother was with a unit that had been under heavy fire with many wounded.  The medics thought they had found everyone who needed medical attention and were preparing to leave.  That’s when his brother heard a very faint cry for help.

He rushed to find a badly wounded soldier and carried the man out of harm’s way to a spot where he could be treated and sent to the field hospital.  The soldier would have died left alone if not for Pete’s brother.  He saved the soldier’s life that day but he never saw the wounded soldier again.

A few years later in the Korean War, Pete also served in the military.  He was stationed in the states helping prepare GIs to head to the conflict across the world, but soon he too would be shipped out to that foreign land and face battle.

Pete approached his sergeant and begged him for a three-day pass to go home and see his wife before he left for Korea.  The sergeant denied his request saying no one was allowed a three-day pass because the commander so ordered.

Imagine Pete’s surprise when shortly afterward, the sarge told him he wanted to see him.  It seems the commanding officer came through and as was his custom, he wanted to see the roster of soldiers.  When he came to Pete’s name, the commander told the sergeant, “Give this guy anything he wants.”

Sarge said, “Well, he’d like a three-day pass to go see his wife.”

The commanding officer replied, “Make sure he gets it.  And if he can’t make it back in time afterwards, send an airplane to pick him up!  Give this man anything he wants.”

Why was Pete granted such special treatment?  Because that commanding officer was the man Pete’s brother had saved on the battlefield years before.  He never got to meet Pete’s brother, but over the years, he kept searching soldiers’ rosters for Pete’s last name.  He wanted to repay the man who had saved his life.  When this officer learned that Pete was his rescuer’s own brother, he saw an opportunity to bless that family.

What an endearing story!  Pete’s eyes glistened a little as he recalled it for our benefit.  “That man was a very good man,” I told Pete.

Pete simply replied, “Yes, yes, he was.”

Time flew by and we needed to leave because I was due for an appointment.  Before we bid Pete farewell, he asked us our names and told us how much he appreciated talking with us.  He said he hoped we wouldn’t think he was a crazy, old man.

Pete was an old man, that’s true.  But crazy, no.  Lonely, I think.  In need of good company.  All he asked for was a listening ear and a chance to share the important stories of his life.  And isn’t that what we all need?

Someone to listen.  Someone to care.  Someone to share a laugh.   I once found this Turkish proverb which said, “If speaking is silver, then listening is gold.”

Silver-haired Pete shared his silver gift of telling stories with my sister and me that day, and I’d like to think that as we listened, we gave Pete a gift of gold.

I’ll probably never see Pete again.  I don’t live in his town nor do I visit the area where he lives.  But I’ll never forget him, for Pete’s sake.

“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.”  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Copyright ©2012


Stranger than fiction

pexels-photo-287336.jpegThe things you learn in a waiting room.

Yesterday I spent a considerable amount of time in a hospital waiting room. 

Hubby was having an outpatient testing procedure done, nothing major, just one of those routine tests people of a certain age are encouraged to have.

I was thankful to hear the test results were normal, which is more than I can say about some of the people in the waiting room with me.

I’m not really sure why,  but people I don’t know usually like to strike up conversations with me.  I think there must be a sign on me somewhere that says, “Talk to me because I won’t be rude to you.”   That’s why little old men ask me for help in the grocery store and really unusual people seem to want to tell me their life history.

Sometimes they tell me things I really would not care to know even if I knew them well, ya know?  I really wasn’t interested that one of the ladies, who made eye contact with me the second I stepped into that waiting area, brought along her own container of canned milk to pour into her paper cup of waiting room coffee.  But she let me know that.

I just smiled and nodded my head and told her I don’t drink coffee when she offered me some.  It’s true I detest that beverage, but even if I were a coffee drinker, I wouldn’t use her canned milk.

I had hoped to squeeze in some good reading time while I waited for hubby.  After all, I have this new book that is causing me to think radically as a believer and I haven’t had much time lately to read it.  I also brought along some brain training (crossword puzzles) that I thought I might have a chance to finish.

But my fellow waiters kept trying to draw me into their conversations.  One lady went so far as to declare immediately upon sitting in the chair nearest me, “Well, missy, you look very nice today!”  I looked up to see if she was speaking to me, yes indeed.

I flipped through my brain rolodex with the question, “Do I know this person?”  The answer was nope, of course.  Another stranger intent on pulling me into a strange dialogue.

This woman proceeded to tell me that she was standing by her decision to have gastric by-pass surgery and all her reasons for doing it.  Seriously, what do you say to a person you do not know and probably will never see again who delivers TMI (too much information) in the first five minutes of a one-sided chat?

My first thought was to warn her that complications can be difficult with that surgery, but that would prolong the conversation.   After I shoved that thought aside, I realized what I wanted to say was, “Um…could you just keep that kind of information to yourself?  I’m trying to read here.”

But of course, I am way too polite to do that.  My mama raised me to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  So again, I just nodded my head and smiled and let her talk…and talk…and talk.

I think the Lord must be trying to teach me yet another lesson.  (I have so many to learn!)  Without giving you too many details lest you think I am really unkind and uncaring, let’s just say that I don’t score real high on the mercy barometer.

It’s something I recognize in myself and also something I realize I need to improve.  I would never be intentionally rude to anyone, especially someone in need, but sometimes, I just want to say, “Oh buck up and get on with life, will ya?”

So I’m supposing God keeps planting smack dab in front of me those people who need to vent, those who need someone to just lend a listening ear, and those that need to rattle on (and on!) to a sounding board that doesn’t talk back.

There are a lot of things I could have said yesterday to those strangers in that strange place, but I chose to keep my mouth shut and my ears open.  I did finally manage to read an article in a magazine lying on the table beside me in between the interruptions.  And I learned some interesting facts that I want to share with you here in my blog.

But that will have to wait until tomorrow.  I’ve got some reading to catch up on and I haven’t trained my brain in several days.  I need to just take some time, stop my busy-ness, and listen while the Lord teaches me the lessons He wants me to learn.  And I’m pretty sure it has something to do with speaking less and listening more.  Oh yes, moving that mercy thing up the barometer.

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” ~ Psalm 25:4-5

“My dear brothers, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.  For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” ~ James 1:19