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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gratitude, or It Wasn't the Heat, It Was the Humility

It’s Saturday, and I am, as so often happens, black-pantsed and white-shirted.

It is the garb of the serving class, and while I joke about the fact that the waist of those black pants fails to cover quite all my ribs and that the white shirt has the come-hither allure of a hospital gown, I nevertheless respect the uniform. One can only be so attractive while schlepping food, don’t you think? Still, I am a better, harder-working person while wearing the ol’ black-and-white. When I am dressed in such a manner, you can expect that I will treat you and your silly demands with respect, that I will laugh at your jokes, and that yes, indeed, I am both working hard and hardly working.

Thank you for asking.

It’s Saturday, and as is my wont, I’ve taken a side job. Standing in the shade of the Doubletree Hotel, we’ve set a lunch buffet out for the 160-or-so bicycle riders we are expecting at any moment…

I don’t expect to be engulfed by emotion; but suddenly, I am.

The Ride2Recovery group has just ridden 35 miles around Lake Minnetonka. Hailing from all parts of the U.S., soldiers recovering from grievous wounds glide into the parking lot. Two- and three-wheeled bikes. Companion dogs. Men on recumbent bikes peddling with their arms. Injuries evident by way of missing limbs or cruel, twisting rows of stitches. Bomb blasts evident by the surprising number of hearing aids.

I am overwhelmed with their toughness, with their bravery.

With their youth.

We stand next to each other, almost at attention, Minh and I. “!@#$,” I whisper. “I might cry.”

“You do, and I’ll punch ya,” she hisses good naturedly.

She’s right, but so am I.  I blink away the tears and smile at the men coming through the line. “Turkey, chicken, beef,” I say, over and over, a response to their questions on the sandwich wraps. “Turkey, chicken, beef.”

They collapse on the grass, under the leafy spread of massive oaks, eat their lunch and talk between themselves.  It is the kind of summer day you remember long after it’s gone: the cool shade, the bright blue sky.

Winter never happened. It has always been summer.

After 10, 15 minutes, Minh and I circulate among the men, offering to bring them more water, offering to take their plates.

A man with a prosthetic leg hands his plate up to me. “Are all the women in Minneapolis as pretty as you?”

I wink at him. “Absolutely,” I say. “Every single one of ‘em.”

His friends laugh.

We make the rounds, over and over. “Thank you, ma’am.” “Thank you.” “Thank you so much.” Every napkin I pick up, every plate I stack, is met with a “thank you”.

And every time, I say the same thing.

“No,” I say, smiling. “No, really. Thank you.”

48 comments:

Joshua said...

...umm...would you excuse me. I'll just be...what's that over there?! {runs away}

jenny_o said...

And thank YOU for a post that made me weep.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

It is humbling to see what some folk will do for the rest of us. To see so many of them in one place would leave me dumbstruck. Yes indeed, "thank them".

Macy said...

Crying too.
We have an army camp down the road here too. And, yeah, it's the youth of those boys that gets me everytime.

Pearl said...

Oh, good. I had to write this, as I pretty much have to write whatever has happened/is on my mind. Glad to see that I while this is not my usual fare, that it still seems to be readable...

Irisheyes said...

Darn it Pearl! Another great post. God bless our soldiers. Heroes indeed.

Sarah Has Moxie said...

beautiful story, Pearl, as usual. :) See you in September, back on your side of the pond! :)

Anonymous said...

Weeping over my breakfast cereal. Considering the content of your post, that's a good thing.

Leenie said...

The wonders of medicine save the lives of these heroes on the battle field. More miracles are performed to help them and their families return to a life as normal as possible. Some wounds never heal, but organizations that provide events like Ride2Recovery go a long way to lifting hearts and mending souls. Bless all who help the Ones Who Serve to Preserve Freedom.

Now, where's my box of Kleenex

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Beautiful post that brought tears to my eyes, Pearl. Thanks for the reminder that we owe so much to these young men.

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

I don't think I've ever read a post of yours that made me tear up. A first for everything, I guess.
Thank YOU.

Joyful Things said...

This post made me choke up. Their lives have been changed drastically but the human spirit prevails. Thanks to them, thanks to Ride2Recovery and thanks to you for posting this.

Hutch said...

Good on ya, Pearl.

Joanne said...

Oh, thank you! They take your breath away, don't they!
Joanne

Vintage Christine said...

Ah, jeez. It's just so unfair that old men declare war and then expect the young ones to go fight it for them. Loved your post--of course it made me cry.

Pat said...

That's got me choked. I cry at half marathons run by perfectly healthy people.

WrathofDawn said...

Damn. My eyes are leaking. As the daughter of a veteran of WWII who came back in one piece, (Physically, at least. I'm convinced he had PTSD when I was young.) I was raised to appreciate the sacrifices young men (and now women) make when they go to war.

On a totally difference topic, the Minnetonka Chamber Choir has on several occasions attended the biannual choral festival we have here called Festival 500. I didn't make the connection with you until you mentioned Lake Minnetonka. Huh. Small world, huh Pearlie?

SkippyMom said...

Chalk me up as another reader that is crying. Beautifully written. Wow.

Yes, we thank them. SO much.

Elly Lou said...

Oh Pearl! Send Minh on over here to punch me because *sniffles*

Doubting Thomas said...

Thanks for writing this, Pearl. Your words capture so much - it is humbling to see gratitude from those who have lost so much and still know that they have much to live for.

Cedar View said...

Way to go Pearl. You made a chubby grown man get all weepy at his desk. Now pardon me while I honk into this tissue.

Good post.

Kara said...

Humbling, isn't it? - Great post, Pearl!

Paula said...

This post made me tear up!

Sausage Fingers said...

Even me the manliest of menly men got a wee bit choked up there...brave lads they are..much respect.
thanks Pearl

Roses said...

You are truly awesome, your post a wonderful tribute to those brave men.

You rock!

alwaysinthebackrow said...

Great post. Their youth makes me tremble in respect and thanks. You did good here my dear.

IndigoWrath said...

Hey Pearl! There's good and bad manners everywhere, but so often good manners are paired with optimism, humility, and a smile. Indigo

Eva Gallant said...

That was a beautiful, truly touching post!

Belle said...

Wonderful post, Pearl. I appreciate what these men and women do for all of us.

Gigi said...

Pearl - even though it wasn't your usual type of post it was DEFINITELY readable - and should be required reading for every American.

And yeah, you made me cry too.

Linda O'Connell said...

What a tribute. What a gal!

Douglas said...

It does this old vet's heart good to read something like this. There are many more thousands who have no physical scars but bear the mental ones along with the guilt of coming out unscathed physically. They are brave men and women, all of them, but they don't see themselves that way. They just joined for the adventure, for the promise of excitement, for the skills they'd learn... and end up learning much more than they ever expected. Bless `em all and keep them safe.

Bodacious Boomer said...

It's amazing how so many people think servers are just invisible, like house elves.

It doesn't surprise me at all that our soldiers treated you that way. All that I've ever interacted with at festivlas have been fabulous.

bruce said...

you rock!

that was a cool thing to be part of and well it was just a great thing to share..

i can think of noth witticissms...

cheers to the racers tho!

Fragrant Liar said...

Went to a Wounded Warrior picnic over 4th of July and had the same kind of reaction. I served up food from behind a table, and just couldn't be happier doing it. It's the least we could do for these guys.

HermanTurnip said...

Glad to hear that I'm not the only one who thanks the people waiting on me in the restaurants. I used to be a bartender, so I know how tough the gig is.

darlin said...

This is a very touching post, thank you for sharing this moment in time which you experienced. I especially like the one gentleman who complimented you in his own special way and your response, that put a smile on my face.

Have a great evening!

linlah said...

Are all those bikers as pretty as you... Absolutely, and prepared and protecting and thank you, over and over and over again to them.

R. Jacob said...

A touching story. The appreciation on both sides, very nice. And it would appear the women are pretty...

River said...

People like that make me ashamed that I whinge over every little (and not so little) ache. I should be more grateful that I have all my limbs and that they all work as they should.

Russ said...

Great post Pearl!

Dawn in DC said...

What a great post. Coming from a military family, I always, ALWAYS, get choked up with stories like these.

Our military are most definitly the heroes of today.

Stacy Q said...

Sniff, sniff...

Susan in the Boonies said...

Great post, Pearl!

Marylinn Kelly said...

Very readable. One of the stories we all need to know. And what an opportunity, to say thank you for those of us who couldn't be there, waiting on them. Thank you.

Pat Tillett said...

Darn those allegies! Tissue please!
Really a great post Pearl. I usually tell how funny you are, but this time I'm gonna tell that you can really write. Seriously, you can...

Kristy said...

That was beautiful and beautifully written!

R. Jacob said...

I am sure it was tough to control you emotions as you looked around..