“…we acknowledge humbly that we can never serve our veterans in quite the same way that they served us, but we can try. We can practice kindness, we can pay it forward, we can volunteer, we can serve, we can respect one another, we can always get each other’s backs.” – President Barack Obama

Holy cow, what a week!  I don’t care which side of the Presidential election you were on, I would bet that like me, you are feeling some degree of emotional, mental and physical hangover from the unprecedented rancor, bitterness, devisiveness and rage that rocked (and still rocks) our country from a relentlessly negative, personalized political battle unlike any we have seen in our lifetime.

In the aftermath of the election, I unexpectedly found my own way to regain a feeling of personal productivity and a sense of happiness, peace and optimism: I simply stopped focusing on the “big picture” of turmoil, uncertainty, demonstrations and a growing list of social ills that must be addressed by our political leaders on both sides of the aisle. Instead, I chose to focus my attention on the many small opportunities we have to make a difference, right where we are, each and every day. This Ah-Ha Moment came to me out of the blue by a seemingly-innocuous text message.

You will recall that my last blog was a reprint of a column by Bob Perks, a fellow coach and inspirational writer and speaker who lives in Pennsylvania. (I live in Southern California.) We have never met in person, but admire each other’s work.

In his “Three Taps: POW MIA” column (See “Three Taps” Blog 252), Bob wrote movingly about the symbolic meaning of each element of the “Missing Man Table” that is permanently displayed in his American Legion Post 672. I thought it was an important reminder for Veteran’s Day that we should never forget or take for granted the service of all the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces — especially those who never came home and whose loved ones never got closure. They are Missing In Action, and the symbolic empty table ensures they will never be forgotten.

Some fortunate Prisoners of War, like Senator John McCain, eventually returned home, but will forever bear the physical and emotional scars of their ordeal to protect the daily freedoms we too often take for granted, like peacefully and democratically electing our President.

After it ran, I texted Bob another thank-you for allowing me to reprint his column, and casually asked him what the “guys” (temporarily forgetting there are also women in the service!) at the Legion were going to do to celebrate Veteran’s Day.  His reply shocked me:

“I am doing a special Veterans Day performance at my Legion on Friday, along with food as best I can. I will open with patriotic music sung by me.  I cannot believe that the only thing my own Legion is providing is a free drink to each veteran.  I will feed their stomachs and spirit. I will also call on everyone there to tap three times wherever they are seated.”

I know Bob is on a very tight budget, and his determination to give them a proper celebration to honor their service touched me deeply.  So I went to my PayPal account and sent him a small donation to help with the refreshments cost. The next day, much to my surprise, I received this email from him:

Caroll, I have shared with many the fact than an “incredible friend” has sent a gift to our Legion’s veterans. “Stunned” “Amazed” “Grateful” are common reactions.

“Why would someone do that?” one asked.  Then I was pleased to hear him immediately answer his own question saying, “Most likely for the same reason you do, Bob. Tell them thank you.”

I was truly flabbergasted that my little gift made such a positive impression on a group of strangers whose service I can never begin to repay.  When I so easily clicked “Send Money,” on PayPal, it never crossed my mind that my gift would have meaning beyond the special food it would provide for them.

The next day, Bob sent me some great pictures of the sumptuous “spread,” which included his personally-prepared Fried Chicken Haluski (noodles, fried cabbage and onions), cole slaw and a half-sheet cake.  Another veteran sent 10 pizzas in honor of his late father, a Purple Heart recipient.  The room was festively decorated in red, white and blue, and “DJ Bobby” kept everyone rocking on the dance floor – including the 93 year old lady pictured above who came with her daughter who is battling cancer.

Bob said the parking lot was jammed, as about 150 Legionnaires and their loved ones (one for every dollar I donated) enjoyed the celebration and appreciated that a stranger cared enough to honor them on their special day.

This was the simple reminder I needed: Do not worry about what you cannot control.  Just look around you and see who can use a helping hand.  Red State, Blue State — We are ALL Americans. We ALL need each other.

****************** Give the Gift of Dreams Fulfilled! *************************

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