Monday, May 29, 2006


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.


Vicki said...

What an inspiring parallel--that we're soldiers for Christ and need the full Armor of God to stick with it day by day. I need to cling to His promise that He'll never leave or forsake me.

Thanks for posting this.
Blessings & hugs,

*~Tey~* said...

It sounds like you had a good time handing out poppies. God bless you!