“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
I recently was invited to a Vietnam reunion. It has been 40 years since I left the Republic of Vietnam and have had no desires to return. I have been invited to many other reunions from other military organizations, college, and high school, but I was never really interested. This reunion for whatever reason caught my interest.
I still have remembrances of Vietnam that come and go after forty years. Smells, sights and conversations can still trigger a memory or two in me of that country in Southeast Asia. But my warm memories have more to do with the Vietnamese people than my comrades in arms. I really didn’t miss any soldier “buddies” when I left in March of 1970. The camaraderie was wonderful for the year I was there; but the year was over. Then two years were over, then ten and so on. Those men I served with were no longer a part of my life. Yet my thoughts of the Vietnamese people have stayed with me to this day. It was the children, the orphans, the families devastated by war that to this day I look back in the rear view mirror to see. When I was able to assist them, I never looked at receiving an award or anything like that. The smiles were sufficient. However many years later when I did volunteer work for a church or charity organization, I looked for some kind of recognition. Why is that? What changed? I believe I know the answer: Selfishness!
I, as many people do, love helping people. However, when I began “helping people” in my thirties and forties, I started laying out conditions to my ‘helping’. I would only show up at times convenient for me. I made sure all the important people knew I was present and accounted for and then, I would bow out gently. I did not care to see the results of my contribution (if in fact I contributed anything). I was doing it for “doing something sake”. It wasn’t until I began volunteering and helping people who were “without” did I then see the incredible joy to see God’s work through me. I no longer wait for the award ceremony. To this day, I cannot get enough of helping people-no matter their circumstance. The Lord planted that ‘helping’ seed in me 40 years ago, but it took a few decades for it to be cultivated and grow. I’m so thankful and happy that seed ended up in good soil.
I am planning to attend this Vietnam reunion and hopefully share with some people the results of a seed planted in very strange land at a very young age. I hope to come home with more than a t-shirt. I’m not thirsting for any memories nor am I fighting to forget any. Maybe being there for an hour will be sufficient.
*Words and music credits for the song Hotel California are shared by Don Felder, Don Henley and Glenn Frey. I hope they don’t mind me using this one lyric.