It never ceases to amaze me how the simplest and smallest acts of a stranger can change lives forever. It has been said that "bigger is better," but I've come to learn that is not always true. My Granddaddy taught me that. Not with his words, but by how he lived his life. One single act of a stranger changed him forever and, because of that, changed me forever. It happened many years ago...
My Granddaddy had the two most important jobs during World War II. He was a cook and a medic. He kept our troops fed and patched up. What could be more important? They weren't glamorous, but he played two huge roles in defeating Hitler.
One day, as he was changing sheets on a bed, he noticed a man across from him that was badly wounded. The man was missing most of the right sided of his body, including his right eye and arm. Unfortunately, he had seen worse, but this particular man still tugged at his heart.
A volunteer with the Red Cross sat down next to the wounded man. She had a basket of fresh oranges, a real treat for those so close to the front lines. She asked if he would like an orange. My Granddaddy barely him hoarsely whisper "Yes." The "Red Cross Woman," as my Granddaddy called her, smiled and said, "That will be a dime."
My Granddaddy moved closer to hear the response. "I don't have a dime," he replied."
The Red Cross Woman stood up and walked away, leaving the wounded man and moving on to the next bed with her basket of oranges. My Granddaddy saw the man cry. Embarrassment for not having a dime? We'll never know.
My Granddaddy moved on the next bed as another volunteer sat down next to the man. He wanted to tell her to move along, but he had been told to let the volunteers do their jobs without any interference. He explained to me he would have had a few choice words for her, had he been able to say something.
"Would you like an orange?" the volunteer asked. My Granddaddy's blood boiled.
The man explained, again, that he didn't have any money. The volunteer moved from the chair and sat on the bed next to him. She reached in her basket and pulled out an orange. She began peeling the orange.
"That's okay. I'm with the Salvation Army." She finished peeling the orange. She sectioned the orange and fed it to the wounded man.
My Granddaddy would go on say how much that meant to him. He explained how that single act changed him and the direction of his life. He said he knew there had to be a God because of this one woman. Despite all the horror around him, he knew God was watching and taking care of everyone.
I heard that story my entire life. My Granddaddy wiped tears from his eyes each time he told that story. I grew up wanting to touch a life the way "The Salvation Army Lady," as my Granddaddy called her, had touched him. We don't know her name. We don't know what caused her to volunteer. The only thing we know is that she showed up one day and cared.
How much did this really impact my Granddaddy? I'm not sure. I do know that when he had Alzheimer's and didn't recognize Granny, the woman he had been married to for sixty plus years, he could still tell that story. He didn't where he lived or what year it was, but he could tell that story with all the passion of when he had told it when he was well. His words never faltered. The story never changed. It was always in his head.
No. It wasn't in his head. It was in his heart. Alzheimer's may have taken his memories, but it didn't take the feelings in his heart.
I showed up one day, in Oklahoma City, after the bombing of the Murrah Building there. I wanted to help my hometown.
I saw the Red Cross women. They were selling bottles of water to those covered in dust and blood. Men and women, coughing and wheezing from the debris in the building, desperately needed water. Not far from the Red Cross station was the Salvation Army ladies. They were handing out bottles of water. No charge. Just giving it to those in need.
I thought of my Granddaddy and his Salvation Army lady. Despite what had happened and all that I saw that day, I knew God was there - helping.
I want to do something like that for someone. They don't have to know my name. They just need to know I showed up one day and cared. I can't cure cancer. I can't bring peace to the world. I can touch one person. I can do something, simple straight from the heart, and, maybe, change a life.
I want to give one person an orange. I have at least one orange to give. Do you?