Earlier this week, we were driving home from the Great White North and stopped for the night in Effingham, Illinois. In the morning as we were scrambling to leave, I had an interesting conversation with another guest at the hotel.
My kids were just inside the door to the hotel and I was outside at our truck when a gentleman walked up to me. In what I was afraid was a negative tone and in his gravelly voice he asked, “ Are those your kids?”
My first instinct was to say, “It depends. What did they do?” But I didn’t. “Those boys are mine.”
“They are good kids. They treated an old soldier with respect. You’re doing a good job with them. Keep up the good work.”
I would be lying if I said that didn’t make my day.
The old soldier’s name was Bob and we had a great conversation. Bob was a native New Yorker who was moving to Colorado to live with a daughter. As a young man, Bob served our country in the Army (special forces) in Viet Nam, achieving the rank of Sergeant. He was awarded numerous awards, including the Purple Heart. The horrors of battle were not kind to Bob. When he returned home, he spent the next 35 years or so seeking comfort in the bottom of a bottle. About 5 years ago, thanks to God and AA, Bob sobered up and has been ever since. Bob’s wife did not know how to relate to him when sober and she left. Unfortunately, this is all too common.
During those years, Bob had a distinguished career with the New York City Police Department. He was a sergeant and then a homicide detective. He became a member of a distinguished group of police officers, the 10-13 (officer shot, needs assistance).
Now Bob works for the federal government. He goes to the Middle East to train our soldiers how to be more effective and come back alive while working in urban settings.
Bob asked what I do, besides driving back and forth to Canada. I told him that I pastor a small church. Tears welled up in his eyes as he spoke to me. He said, “You have a beautiful family. Cherish them. Continue to lead and teach them. Continue to be a good dad and a good husband. Keep teaching the truth to your congregation. Keep being kind to old soldiers and drunks and men who need a word of encouragement.”
I thanked Bob for his past and continued service to our nation. He sacrificed his physical health and his emotional strength when his country called. Thanks to all who have served and continue to serve when called.
Bob tried to assure me of how much our short conversation meant to him. I am less sure. But I know what it meant to me. As a father and pastor who gets tired and discouraged from time to time, Bob offered words of encouragement that are immeasurable. Thanks, Bob. I truly appreciate it. My sons made me especially proud that morning as, unsolicited, they did something kind and respectful for someone. It gave me a little confidence that we are doing something right as parents. Thanks, boys. I truly appreciate it.
Is there someone you need to say thanks to today? Has someone been a great encouragement to you? Have you encouraged someone recently? Tell us about it.