I have many flaws, so many in fact I forget some of them until oops, there it is, that's right... I do that! Why do I do that? And then I vow to do better... be better. I try, I really do.
But, I am a good listener. I am empathetic. Your stories stay with me. I put them away in my heart...and bring them out shamelessly when I need them to inspire, to educate, motivate, encourage, and navigate my journey.
I visited yesterday with an American Veteran who is a little bit older than myself possibly, mid 70's if I am doing the Math correctly...( oops, a fault of mine. I suck at Math) He was 19 during his first tour of Nam (Vietnam) in 1959. So let's see that is three and carry the one...He is 73. He had lots of stories to tell and I am an avid listener. Towards the end of our conversation, it was clear he appreciated my listening skills as I heard war stories that I wish I were not taking straight to my heart. I tried to just listen and nod. But, at one point it was useless...I can only be who I am. My eyes filled with tears and I said that I was so sorry...and I am. He bowed his head and said " It is okay. It was a long time ago. And war is hell. No one should experience war."
But we do go to war. When I say "we"...I mean mankind. Not just United States of America. But, when I say "we" I do think of my family. I think of me. My father served in Vietnam and I could relate to so much about what this man was saying although from the perspective of a little girl of about 9 years old. I went back in time hearing my Mom and Dad talk over the phone/radio saying "over" after each sentence acutely aware that a radio operator was listening and transferring the call; and then not caring that anyone heard their words.. The long periods without mail and then all at once a floodgate of mail all out of order. The fear. I felt fear. I was a 9 year old girl who was afraid her father would not come home. I was afraid my father would die.
My father does not tell war stories to me. In fact, I think he has only spoke of it to my Mother and to my daughter-in-law when she interviewed him for a paper she was writing in college. He did tell me one story during a recent difficult time in my life. It wasn't graphic. But, it was enough for me to realize that during that time father and daughter had fear in their lives for the very same reason. The Veteran that I listened to last night spoke about his fear, not his bravery although clearly he was brave. He spoke of being only 19..."What the hell did I know?"
I knew almost nothing at 19 but thought I knew it all. I am 55 and I am convinced I know nothing at all. But, I am a good listener. Your stories stay with me. I put them away in my heart...
Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9