Saturday, November 13, 2004


The Blessing of Buddy Poppies
by Janice Price

"If you can stand out here in this weather, then I can help too," one man said, as he handed me a dollar bill and I handed him a Buddy Poppy.

The small red flowers on a thin wire stem are assembled by disabled American veterans and exchanged for a donation to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The money collected helps veterans in nursing homes and in the community.

The past two days have been miserable, weather-wise. Yesterday began bleak, cold and rainy. My brain was as foggy as my hands were klutzy. The last thing I wanted to do was to load a thermos of hot coffee, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, several cough drops and an umbrella into a cold car and go pick up a basket of poppies.

But soldiers work in conditions worse than this.

The thought popped into my head and motivated me to go forward. I decided I could do it with a smile, no matter what the weather. I spent a couple of solitary hours outside Ingles grocery store, protected from the rain, but with wet shoes and few prospects before the weather began to clear. Before my six-hour volunteer shift ended, I was sweating.

This morning I expected it to warm up also. Instead it got colder and windier. I wished I’d dressed in another layer of clothes.

Still, I greeted people with a cheery, "Would you like a Buddy Poppy today?" Some said, "I’ll catch you on the way out," "I need to get some change," or "I just bought one at Wal-Mart." Some wavered, then donated on the way in. Others approached with money in hand, eager to support our vets. A few stopped to tell a story.

One would hand me a dollar bill. Another might give me a handful of change. I tried to look everyone in the eye and let each know the donation was appreciated, even if I traded a poppy for a quarter. For one person, giving a quarter is more generous than giving a dollar. Fewer than I would have guessed wouldn’t look me in the eye or pretended not to see me.

One older man stopped and said, "I don’t have any money." His tone implied he would give if he could. I guessed he was a veteran and handed him a poppy. His face lit up as he thanked me.

Yes, the weather has been dismal the last two days and I’m physically exhausted, but the days have been good ones, filled with friendly people, smiling faces and laughter. It was a positive experience, well worth a few hours of discomfort and inconvenience to help our veterans.

As Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35b)

© 2004 Janice Price

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