Monday, May 29, 2006

THE POPPY LADY

For the past three years I have helped the Veterans of Foreign Wars distribute Buddy Poppies for two days twice a year – the Friday and Saturday of Memorial Day and Veterans Day weekends. I am not a Veteran, merely a member of their Auxiliary who volunteers to help.

For the most part, I enjoy Buddy Poppy drives. The nice folks more than compensate for the grumps, those who avoid eye contact, and the occasional hostile passerby. Some of the reactions from folks who know me are curious.

One elderly neighbor always stops short and asks. “What are you doing?” as if he has never seen me standing in the same spot with the familiar red Poppies in hand. (Sadly, he has Alzheimer’s.)

A minister joked, “I didn’t know the men make the women work.”

“I didn’t recognize you. Take off those sunglasses so people know who you are,” another neighbor ordered, with a laugh.

But my favorite comment came from my mother’s neighbors who approached as I stood outside Ingle’s holding Buddy Poppies in one hand. “Are you the Poppy Lady today?” the wife teased.

“Yes, I guess I am,” I replied, aware I was the only woman in town distributing VFW Poppies on that particular day.

Buddy Poppy days are either cold and wet or hot and humid. This Memorial Day weekend is hot and humid. (Obviously, I don’t do it for the good weather.) I was fortunate to be able to stake out a post in the shade during the early morning hours on both days, but before noon I was hitting my large water jug frequently, and despite the baseball cap shading my face somewhat, my skin was on fire. I was hot and tired and ready to go home, but I managed to persevere until I ran out of Poppies.

What keeps me motivated is the knowledge I am exchanging a Buddy Poppy for a donation to help veterans who served their country overseas. A soldier in combat or in a combat zone does not have the luxury of leaving his post because there is no shade or it is wet and cold. He can not walk into the grocery store or over to a vending machine to get out of the weather for a few minutes, or to purchase a cold drink if he is thirsty or a snack if he is hungry. He sticks to his post and waits to be relieved.

I saw a strong example of this determination to duty last year when Jimmy, a Vietnam veteran, appeared ill and ready to collapse as he sat in front of the Wal-mart Super Center in the hot sun with his Poppies, but he refused to allow anyone to relieve him or to take a break. “I can’t leave my post until I’m relieved (by his commanding officer),” he insisted. Fortunately, the local VFW Post Commander thought of his welfare, arrived early, took a firm stand, and, despite protests, he drove Jimmy home. Jimmy died a few days later.

No matter who you are or where you serve, if you follow Christ you are a soldier in a war zone too.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:11-13.

You will need all of the armor because some people will tease you, some will be uncomfortable and avoid eye contact with you, and some will be downright hostile to you when you follow Christ. Trials and temptations will come, friends and family might desert you, accidents might occur, disease might attack your mind or body, but Christ said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Reflect on that promise at those times when you stand at your post feeling alone and abandoned.

You need to stick to your post, no matter what, until Christ relieves you of your physical duties, either in death or by His return, whichever comes first. (“I will come again,” Jesus promised. John 14:3)

For a few days a year now I serve the VFW as “the Poppy Lady.” But my service to God is a lifetime commitment.

www.mercyandpercy.com/

Thursday, May 18, 2006

CLUTTER IN THE DEN

Merci isn’t aware her den is actually my bedroom and I doubt she cares. When she arrived, she spent two days sleeping on a throw rug in the living room. On the third day, she decided she preferred the bedroom carpet, moved her new toys and claimed her own space. She likes to sleep surrounded by her toys. I like to walk without tripping over her clutter.

My dream is that one day Merci will learn to pick up her own toys and put them in a basket so her den is neat. She will probably learn that right after she learns to cook and clean. Meanwhile, I occasionally pile all her toys in a basket and put the basket in the living room. She reacts like a mother dog moving her puppies to a safer location. Shortly, all her toys are scattered around her bed in her den in my way.

This morning I decide she needs to spend less time in solitariness and move her bed near my workspace. I place the basket with all her toys on top so she will feel secure. One by one, she trots the toys back to their rightful spot in her den.

Merci’s toys are dirty from being repeatedly tossed and fetched. I wouldn’t think of putting one of her toys in my mouth. But as I watch her I realize we sometimes hoard anger in the same way. We embrace it, chew on it, and cuddle it as we sleep and as soon as we decide to move it out of our life, we grab it back from the trashcan and chew on it some more. We don’t consider the germs it carries.

There is a time to be angry, but when the time has passed, we need to toss the anger in the trashcan and leave it there. Anger is like clutter. If we don’t pick it up, sooner or later we will stumble over it.

www.mercyandpercy.com

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

HARDWORKING RANDY

I remember the days when customers spoke kindly of the U.S. P.S. (United States Postal Service). Today there are more complaints about their service than compliments. The postal service handles more mail per day than I can imagine, yet they have a too-high rate of lost or destroyed mail complaints. I know this from personal experience. In 2005, three of my checks were lost within the short span of two months.

Some of the mail is destroyed by machinery. Some is misplaced, forever lost, left in the bottom of a mailbag, sent on permanent vacation to unknown destination, or hidden in a home or storage locker by the occasional kooky carrier. Thankfully, much of the mail does reach its destination intact. And that is thanks to the hard-working folks such as my friend Bill who has a high pressure postal job in another state. I do not know whether the center where he works realizes how dedicated and conscientious he is or how his determination reflects well on the postal system, but I do know God is aware he perseveres on the job and always gives his best to help postal customers.

Misdelivered or lost mail can cause major problems, so I really appreciate a good mail carrier. I had a carrier in Phoenix, Arizona who knew everyone on his route, even though he delivered to a number of apartment buildings with a high turnover of tenants, and he had a very low incidence of mail delivered to the wrong box. He was personable, diligent and highly regarded.

The carrier at my next apartment complex was just the opposite. One of the tenants in the apartment building called his supervisor one day and asked, “What does that man have on you that he can do whatever he wants and walk away without even a reprimand?” One complaint was that although the news carried warning after warning about boxes of checks being stolen from home mailboxes, this carrier continued to throw boxes of checks on the public sidewalk somewhere in the vague vicinity of an apartment, and he could not understand why anyone would fuss about it.

I moved to a small town several years ago and the mail service has been good here. For several years, Randy has delivered mail in this area. This is a walking route, whereas the other carriers drive their routes. He walks ten miles a day, up and down steps, and up and down hills.

He works hard, yet he is always smiling and cheerful. He knows who is related to whom and which dogs belong to which owner. If anyone has a question or a problem, he will do his best to answer or resolve it. He is not the type to deliver a box of checks by tossing it toward the porch from several yards away. All of the people I know on his route like him and trust him, knowing he is willing to go the extra mile to serve.

He is one of those people who bring to mind Ecclesiastes 9:10a: Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.

Lately I noticed a substitute carrier is delivering the mail and assumed, as did others on his route, Randy is on vacation. I learned today he is not off somewhere having fun. He is recovering at home from injuries sustained when the diving board broke and he fell into his pool while he was cleaning it. The pool was empty at the time and his injuries are serious. He will be out of work for three to four months.

As I thought about his accident today, two things immediately came to mind.

1. No matter how hard you try to avoid them, accidents can happen. In a split second your life is altered, and you can not go backwards, only forward with your life.

2. A lazy worker’s absence is noted with celebration. A hard worker’s absence is recognized with sadness.

My neighborhood recognizes Randy’s absence with sadness. We are praying for his complete recovery and look forward to seeing him back on his route. Meanwhile, the route is being handled by a brave (it’s a hard route, remember) and competent female sub.

Some Christians are lazy workers, wanting to skim through life and into heaven with as little work as possible, but we are called to service. The Bible is our instruction manual. Prayer is our power source. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, which was the act of a servant. He is our example.

Some Christians are such hard workers they can forget salvation is a gift of God, not a do-it-yourself challenge. Their works will not earn their way into God’s kingdom.

I do not know whether the world, your neighbors, or even your family will realize how dedicated and conscientious you are, but I do know God is aware when you persevere and work hard in His service. .

Christians are part of the body. Serving others can be frustrating and exhausting at times, but it is also rewarding. Our work is to be done in Christ and not in our own strength or to our own glory.

© 2006 Janice Price
www.mercyandpercy.com

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

SOMETIMES LIFE BITES

She is a small, brown dog, sitting in the middle of a traffic lane, causing a northbound traffic tie-up on Highway 19. A man grabs the scruff of her neck, lifts her off the ground and deposits her in a sitting position in a parking lot. He climbs on his motorcycle and drives away. The dog tries to stand and falls over. One hind leg is injured, possibly broken.

Three or four people walk over. When their curiosity is satisfied, they quickly wander away. It isn’t their problem.

But one teenage couple remains with her. The girl kneels, speaks softly and hesitantly strokes the frightened animal. The young man paces rapidly as he uses his cell phone to dial 911 and request help for the dog. He has a sock wrapped around the fingers of the hand the dog nipped when he tried to help her. The trauma of the accident was too fresh, too painful, and she lashed out instinctively. He isn’t bleeding, but his hand throbs.

Sometimes life events hit us so hard they leave us sitting stunned in the road, unable to move on without help. Illness, injury, divorce, unemployment, debt, or a myriad of other unexpected incidents can impact us.

Many people will wander away when their curiosity is satisfied. It isn’t their problem. Friends will remain with us, speaking softly and doing what they can to ease our fears and offer support. It isn’t their problem, but, amazingly, strangers will appear to offer a hand of assistance.

Sometimes, when the trauma is fresh, we also lash out instinctively. We bite the hand that offers aid.

Sometimes we even lash out at our Lord. We often blame God for painful circumstances in life, even those times when we cause them. Still, knowing that in our panic we might bite, he offers a hand of encouragement.

The dog shows no signs of aggression. She is alert and quiet, without even a whimper. Once the initial shock is over, she realizes she is among friendly strangers.

This young man is not severely injured, but he was bitten for trying to do a good deed. His companion is undeterred as she offers comfort to an animal in pain. Each is prepared to overlook the initial response of the dog and to offer help.

This young couple reacts admirably. They invest a bit of time and concern in a stranger’s dog, despite the pain of the encounter. Because they care, this dog is alive and reunited with her owner.

Sometimes life bites. We feel its sting because we are alive. Nevertheless, resist the urge to bite back.


www.mercyandpercy.com