Heroes Wear Blue Caps

 

 I see heroes everywhere.

This week I found myself, over the course of only a couple hours, crossing paths with several veterans – men who’d selflessly served our nation and quietly returned to the life we all enjoy today.

Most are quiet, low-key about not only their service, but of their experiences. What they did was just a part of their duty – something they understood as a chapter in their lives in exchange for the life they and their loved ones share.

“Thank you for your service,” I said.

I’d pulled off the highway at a state rest stop to check a map and stretch my legs. Opening the door to leave the simple stone building I noticed the man ahead of me, wearing a blue baseball cap moving slowly but determined. On the back gold stitched letters reading the words ‘veteran’.

As I held the door I noticed the front panel of the hat displayed he’d served in the Vietnam War.

Surprised at my comment, almost like he wondered how I knew, he smiled.

“Thank you,” he said. “I served twenty-years before I retiring.”

A nametag on the front of his jacket revealed he was traveling with a group who were coming and going from a large tour bus parked along the curb.

Slowing my walk, we talked casually as we made our way back down the sidewalk as others came and went from the tour bus.

His smile was warm, his words kind. There was not need to go into explanation. He served and was silently proud of his contribution. In his eyes, he was not hero, just another of the 2.7 million men who served in the Vietnam War. Duty called.

To those of us who grew up in a generation where such service is made under different circumstances, relating and fully understanding the sacrifices this man – and those he served with – is difficult to accurately appreciate. I’ve lived in a time where my horizon was filled with decisions like what college to attend, where to go on a spring break, or how to score tickets to a concert.

Life and death decisions require both elements – the latter being something that makes the transforms the former into a way most of us can never full appreciate.

As my new friend and I parted ways, he and his blue cap turning towards the bus and me towards my car, we both shared a few final words. But as he negotiated up the steps, I found myself feeling as if there was so much more I’d left unsaid. I wanted him to know how much I respect him and those he served alongside. And I wanted him to know how truly as I feel as if God will reserve a special place for those who took the brave steps of sacrifice for the rest of us.

And I wanted him to know that in my heart, heroes wear blue ball caps. 

 

– 30 – 

How You Use The Clock Matters

In life it seems we’ve two choices – live life knowing we will eventually run out of time or to simply run out the clock.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to live in the former category.

We can look around at high-profile people and see the very same. There is no doubt Apple founder Steve Jobs ran out of time to see his all of his visions become reality. The same could also be said for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mother Teresa. To them, each day was a gift for them to use to change or improve the lives of those around them. And if given one extra day there is no doubt they would have used it in very much the same way as those before.

Even in our own lives we all know those who might fit the very same description. My mind quickly goes to our family preacher in my hometown who was taken by cancer in midlife, leaving behind a wife and children. To this day, he remains one of the most powerful and influential people in my life. If ever there was a man who walked the walk, it was this man. I even remember him running races to raise money for cancer research well after he could see his personal finish line on the horizon.

Based on an average lifespan of seventy-five years, we all can generally count on something north of 27,000 sunrises to make a difference in the world and those around us. There are no coupons, no overtime sessions, and no amount of money will reasonably extend your life significantly beyond this window.

In the literal end, the currency of life is defined by the time we have and how we choose to use it.

Recently I heard a saying that “you die twice in life – once when your heart stops and then again the last time someone says your name.”

I thought about these words and what the really meant. This is not about one playing in a rock and roll band or earning an Academy Award for a role in a movie. Rather these words reflect on who you are and the positive impact you choose to make on the world around you. Are you there for others? Do you make an effort at every opportunity to help others in need? Are you true to your dreams, potential, and aspirations?

Or, as in the case of others, are you content to simply sit on the sidelines and the minutes meaninglessly tick by – thus running out the clock?

There is no age limit on living life with a purpose – whether you are ten or seventy – the days all count the same in the end.

I am far from perfect and have undoubtably gone through stretches of life not fully appreciating the true value of each day – and for that I am sure I am not alone. But fortunately, for me, I now understand each day is an active choice for me to make.

And in the end, if each of us make enough decisions along the way to help make the world a better place, then I’m sure we will have made the differences God placed us here to accomplish in the first place.

 

– 30 –

Love Discovered Hanging Out

 

Sometimes you discover love in the most unusual places.

Recently I found myself on an urban hike of sorts – probably the only way to describe walking in New York City. Moving in and out of cool shadows cast by the tall buildings above, I couldn’t help but notice how life moves a bit faster in the town that proudly refers to itself as The City That Never Sleeps. This town, at least to an outsider, is all business.

That is until I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Looking across the familiar expanse of steel cables and masonry towers, I found myself drawn to explore this massive structure from the inside. And it was there – above a river of water and traffic – I discovered love hanging around.

There are literally thousands of cables running in every direction between the limestone and granite construction. Each one plays a very special role in keeping the world’s first suspension bridge in place. But it is on these very cables where people declare their love for eternity.

At first I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. Stopping in place about halfway across the bridge I noticed what appeared to be small locks hanging from cables. Leaning out over a beam, my eyes began to notice no two were alike, no two the same.

Behind me people were rushing past – this city stops for no one. But as I leaned out more closely I could begin to see initials either etched or written on the locks. While some were more ornate than others, each represented a couple that’d walked out onto the bridge with the intention of clasping a very personal – and permanent – symbol of their love to the bridge.

One in particular, “Daniel and Diane” appeared to be written in White Out across the face of a gold lock. Another, a larger red lock, was professionally inscribed with etching tools. Some carried dates while others simply projected initials. But each represented a moment in time and a commitment for two people.

The decorated cables are actually quite beautiful when you think about how they’ve come to be.

Looking down the cables you notice how the older ones might carry a bit of rust from years of weathering. Beyond those I could easily make out the letters I noticed older ones being obediently pushed down like unused hangers in a closet. And the more I looked around, the more I saw. 

Honestly, this is one of my very favorite memories of New York. Here is one city that represents its nickname well. People are everywhere – and each with place to go.

But for a few, they’ve taken time to swing by the local hardware store and plan a declaration of love no court in the land can undo. Once they write their initials on the metal surface, snap the U-bolt down and slide into place, their love will forever be tied to Brooklyn Bridge.

There are a few things I plan to do should I ever get the chance to return to New York City – but none more important than carrying a small engraved lock the next time I walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

 

– 30 –