“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Mark 8:34
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 interested. This reunion for whatever reason made me re-evaluate my attendance history at such events.
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 friendships were 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, for whatever reasons,were no longer a part of my life. Yet my thoughts of the Vietnamese people have stayed with me more than the soldiers I laughed and cried with. 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.
*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.