In last week’s column, I was fired up after a parent filed an official bullying complaint against a Texas high school football team for beating his son’s team 91-0. I vowed to come back for part two this week on how the anti-bullying campaign has gotten out of hand; however, I’ve had a change of heart. Life is too full of blessings to focus on things that have the tendency to spike my blood pressure.
Last Friday was significant for more pertinent reasons.
Early last week, I was asked to speak briefly to the Campus Life students at Opelika High School. I was all in, even after learning they met at 7:07 a.m. Yes, that’s 7:07 in the morning.
I am not a morning person. In fact, one of the reasons I left Active Duty Army is because I had to wake up early every single day. I often say that I left the Army for three reasons: I hate waking up early, I hate shaving, and I hate running. Well, those were the first three things I did every single day, so change was in order. Rest assured, I didn’t shave last Friday morning and since I wasn’t being chased by a pack of wolves, I sure as heck didn’t run.
The students were raising money for a worthy cause, so it was the least I could do. They had the option of supporting any cause they so desired, and they chose to support the Wounded Warrior Foundation. By God’s grace, in spite of multiple tours to Iraq, I am not a wounded warrior but have many close friends who are.
Most of the students in attendance had loved ones who’d served in the military. One of the girls wasn’t sure which branch in which her granddad served, but, according to her, he was “one of the water people.” I assume he was in the Navy.
These kids touched my heart.
They also touched my wallet.
They were selling handmade bracelets, so I walked out of there with three of them…and I don’t even wear bracelets. I’m such a sucker for a great cause.
After leaving these impressive young people, I proceeded toward the Birmingham VA Medical Center by way of US Highway 280, passing the sign for the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alex City, which got me thinking.
I entertained a group of female Veterans at the Breast Cancer Survivor’s Luncheon at the Birmingham VA. To my credit, I made them laugh, but I was overwhelmed by the love and kindness they showed me.
Because of the audience, I waived my fee, but as I told them, nothing in life is free. I expected to be paid in hugs before they left, and boy was I ever. I’d never been hugged and kissed so many times in my life.
They stated that they were blessed to have me there but it was I who was truly blessed on this particular day.
It’s an old cliché, but the best things in life really are free: love, hugs and extra gravy. I used to include air on that list, but it now costs 50 cents at some places.
As I was driving home, it dawned upon me to contact my cousin who works at the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home to see if there was anything I could do for them. She said many of the residents needed shoes.
The Campus Life kids and the breast cancer survivors inspired me to take action; so I did, but I couldn’t and didn’t do it alone.
It was just an idea, but with the incredible and overwhelming support of my friends, new and old, local and afar, we raised enough money in just three days to send 115 pairs of men’s Reebok Velcro-strapped walking shoes to the residents of the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home.
There are also two females residing at the home, but only one can wear shoes. We didn’t forget about them. A friend from North Carolina ordered a pair of pink New Balance Velcro-strapped sneakers for one, while a friend from Florida bought a pair of slippers for the other.
I received donations from $5 to $337.50. Every dollar was just as important as the next, and every cent will go to the home.
I was asked to speak to those kids for a reason, and now we know why.
Oh, I gave my three bracelets to members of the Midfield High School JROTC who were also in attendance at the survivor’s luncheon. I didn’t need the bracelets, because I now have a pink one, along with a scarf, given to me by Evelyn, one of the survivors. She, of course, gave them to me for free.
I will always cherish my gifts and memories of this day.
Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.