I often take a stroll after dinner. In summer the shadows are long and people smile as they walk their dogs or chat together at the end of their day. Last night I met a gentle man who was playing with a puppy in his front yard. He sat in the grass and this little ball of white fluff frolicked around and all over him. I couldn’t help but laugh and he smiled widely and greeted me warmly. A door opened and we began to talk quietly.
His puppy barked, then sniffed at the back of my extended hand and we became friends. Her man held her so gently that I was drawn to ask her age, name, etc. Her name is Pearl and she is wonderful! After a time we exchanged names and I felt joy to have met someone in the neighborhood where I now live.
All of the details are not necessary yet a few will reveal why this is on my mind as a blessing this morning. Robert and I were born within a year of each other. We are both grandparents now. We love our families, where we live and our country. He grew up poor and in a rough neighborhood in the city. He had to fight to survive and promised himself that would be the end of fighting. Yet, when his country called, he joined the Navy and served during the Viet Nam War – not because he believed in it but because he loves his country.
We talked about those times. I was a military daughter then and my father and brother flew combat during the same year in Viet Nam. I dropped out of college and went to be with my mother. My father was the Wing Commander at March AFB. I stood with her more than once as the base commander, along with a chaplain and us, entered the home of a young woman to inform her of her husband’s death in the war. It was not an easy time.
Robert shared some of his experiences with me and I could see in his eyes what serving in Viet Nam had cost this gentle soul. To this day, he lives with the side effects of having been exposed to Agent Orange. Neither of us thought we should be involved over there and, of course, we were not alone. Robert’s last comment on the subject was that he never fought again. Then he snuggled little Pearl and we talked of puppies and grandchildren and strolling on summer evenings.
Last night I met a gentle man and he touched my life with his honesty, his love for his family and country and that pesky little puppy. His warmth and openness to me, a stranger, eased my mind and I finished my stroll with a big smile on my face. Before falling a sleep, I prayed that the pain he endures because of Agent Orange would ease enough to allow him to sleep. I sent him blessings and blessed his loving wife who makes silk sleeves for his pajamas because the sheets burn his arms.
I met a gentle man who has remained true to himself in the face of life’s hard side. He is a gift and I am honored to have met him. The blessing of those fifteen minutes with him will remain with me and I am grateful for his presence in this world.
May our hearts be open and gentle and true. Namaste.