Friday, October 9, 2015

The Volunteers

An hour and a half north. I could do it with my eyes closed and my truck knows the way by heart.
I stopped beside the yellow curb and hustled to the passenger door.
My wife, Roxy, got out of the back seat and headed toward the entry, but before she got too far one of the volunteers asked if we needed a chair.
I nodded, thanks, and helped Dad ease his feet to the ground.
The wheelchair arrived and once Dad was settled in, I jumped behind the wheel to make room for the next vet waiting to unload.
I circled up the concrete ramp. How’d they get so many volunteers? I wondered. They’re everywhere. But they don’t get paid. Why do they do it? Don’t they have anything better to do? They must be saints…or they need to get a life.
I parked in my usual spot at the top of the ramp, jogged across the lot, down four flights of stairs and then found Roxy standing in the hall next to an empty wheel chair.
I walked up and stood beside her. We both stared at the door that said “Restroom.”
“He had to go” she said.
I tapped on the door and asked if he was alright, he said yes. The door wasn’t locked.
I stepped away and about that time a lady walked by and pushed open the door. She took half a step in and then backed out in a hurry.
We apologized for not heading her off at the pass.
About that time I heard Dad’s voice, “Doug.” 
I slipped inside and helped button his jeans and buckle his belt. I don’t know why they have to make those things so hard to button—and something must be wrong with that belt because it never used to be so hard to buckle. Right, Dad?
In the meantime, a war scarred vet slipped up beside my wife. (By the way, those scars aren't really scars—they're badges s of honor, and don't you forget it.) “I sure like your hair—" he said as he looked at my wife—"you’re a fine woman.”
When Roxy told me about it, all I could say was…“Well, he has fine taste.”
Eventually we made our way to 400B Neurology.
While we waited we met Bob who started talking as soon as he saw Dad’s, Navy hat. Bob had a patch over one eye that looked just like the kind a pirate would wear. He also wore glasses, so the patch made them sit kind of crooked. He talked about being a grunt in the marines and how he didn’t get all the perks those spoiled Navy boys got. One of the highlights of his life was when in Norfolk he was allowed to tour a submarine. It must’ve been at least forty years since he’d been on that sub but his excitement and detail made it seem like he was there yesterday. 
Another man, I don't remember his name, sat across from me, he had a big beard and I think he might’ve played Grizzly Adams. He rubbed his eyes and told us he hoped he didn’t fall asleep before they called his name because he’d been up since four. “Can’t sleep much these days” he said and yawned. "Don't know why, think it has something to do with those new meds..." He went on talking about medicine names that I can't pronounce let alone spell.
One of the volunteers called out a name. Dad lifted his hand and smiled. The man leaned down, looked Dad in the eye and asked how he was doing. He waited until Dad answered and then told him he’d take him back to see the doc.
We watched as the man pushed Dad and his wheelchair around the corner.
As we waited I looked around. I didn’t know anyone, but everyone acted—and felt—like family. There was a camaraderie that could be felt.
It occurred to me why so many volunteers showed up, rain or shine, to push wheel chairs, to stand in hallways ready to give directions, to push carts filled with cups of free coffee…They got paid.
I was asking the wrong question. 
It’s not what they get—it’s what they already got.  
They don’t do it for a pat on the back, a warm fuzzy feeling or to make themselves look good.
They come to walk among giants—among these broken down men, women, heroes.
Those who give honor to whom honor is due realize, they aren’t giving at all—they are repaying.

Thankful hearts catapult the carriers from the need to receive to the land of the giving

I realized these volunteers don’t need to get a life—they’ve already got one. Every day, day in and day out, they show up to really live. To give honor, a debt of gratitude and the greatest debt of all…love.

“Greater love has no man than this, than he lay down his life for his friends.”  Jesus

Thank you for stopping, friend, I owe you one.
Until next time... I don't know about you, but I'm going to go find someone to thank.