Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I love my job! (Part Two)

Yesterday I wrote that it had been a long day, and just as I was about to head into the showers, an NCO came into the barracks asking whether the Chaplain was around. So much for *my* plans!

I followed him out to his vehicle, in which a young Soldier was sitting. The NCO said he was going to go smoke a cigar, and left the two of us in the vehicle. After our introductions, the young combat veteran began telling me the story of what was going on.

As with so many of us returning Veterans, his job had gone away while he was deployed to a combat zone, and though he'd been looking for work ever since he redeployed, he'd not found anything, and had been living in his car for the past couple of months. While he was Down Range, a family member he'd trusted had taken the lion's share of the money he'd saved up while deployed (over $5000) and had spent it on a drug habit the Soldier was not previously aware of.

His Dad constantly berates him for not being "a *real* Soldier" -- because he joined the Guard, rather than Active Duty -- even though the man has never himself served in the military. His son saw some really, really difficult and painful and messy and terrifying things while deployed, given his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), so his father's criticism is especially cowardly and inappropriate.

This kid is a hero, who has saved other heroes' lives.

As we talked, his story ripped at my heart, and I was reminded yet again of what my friends who go to a lot of Al-Anon meetings keep telling me: "Messiah" is not part of *my* job description.

That truth doesn't do much to relieve the pain of the moment, but it does put it into a context.

He and I sat there for a long time, and I marveled at his courage and determination.

Since his family has betrayed and belittled him, his faith and fiancee are now his main sources of support. He and she are barely scraping by, and at one point he said, "Even if I don't have any food for myself, I make damn sure she eats."

A bit later he said, sadly and matter-of-factly: "This weekend the two of us had seven dollars between us."

Bearing in mind what my Alanon-going friends say, but also remembering the passage from Matthew 25 which says, "whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me," I reached into my cargo pocket and pulled out my wallet. It was dark, so he couldn't see what I was doing, but I managed to reach in and pull out the two $50 bills someone had pressed into my hands after Mass, and I gave them to him.

"It's not much, but I hope it will help you and your fiancee, at least a little. I don't want it back, but I would like you to pay it forward to someone else, sometime. Not anytime soon, of course, but at some point when you're able to."

By the time he and I parted company, it was much later, and I had to be up in just a few hours' time. He looked and sounded very different from when we'd met, and as we prayed before taking our leave, it was clear that something important had happened, for both of us.

I returned to the barracks filled with gratitude for Soldiers such as this young man, and for the opportunity to try to be of service to them. I gave up on taking a shower, and just went right to bed, and fell asleep feeling massively grateful.

I love my job!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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am said...

"As we talked, his story ripped at my heart, and I was reminded yet again of what my friends who go to a lot of Al-Anon meetings keep telling me: "Messiah" is not part of *my* job description."

Thanks so much for this and all you've been writing. May God bless and keep you always.

10b-5 said...

What a beautiful statement of Love. Thank you, Father.

Kanani said...

It was a long day made longer by some mysterious circumstance. I think the two of you were meant to cross paths. For him, it was a chance to receive some words of condolence and also encouragement. For you, it was the perfect and quiet end to a very long day.

Unknown said...

So the Fiance is out of work too?

Truth be told the listening probably did him better than the money, people can often figure out their own problems when they get a chance to explain them to someone who listens.

MissC said...

That's why we pray for the chaplains; to know what to do and when to do it.

That's why we pray for the troops; so they will seek the chaplains. God has not forgotten either of you.

Great story...and he is more of a hero because he is better in spite of a dysfunctional family.

Heaven's blessing on you, now and always.

Unknown said...

And I love your job, too, Fr. Tim...the way you perform it. I'm sure that Yeshua ben Joseph is smiling at ths moment! I have a hunch that you dropped seeds upon fertile soil.

Sleep well, when you have the chance! msg :-)

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