THE JOYOUS GIFT OF GIVING SERVICE
I wrote the first part of this article six years ago, not realizing that the essence of this account would over time become my own story.
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We were rushing down a narrow country road on a sunny Sunday morning. Marcie had taken longer to get ready than usual, and with her arthritis, she required a little extra time to get to the car. I was intent on making up the time as we headed to church.
In Central Florida we often must slow down to accommodate our senior citizens. But when an old timer stepped onto the highway to cross the road directly ahead of us that morning, it irritated me.
His grey suit was rather worn and tattered and his gait was a bit stiff, but he held his head high. His air of authority left me no choice but to hit the brakes.
"I wish this old fellow realized we're in a hurry," I blurted.
"Honey, just be patient," Marcie counseled.
He walked across the first lane, then halted squarely in the middle of the road, fully erect. A car from the other direction was also forced to stop.
"The nerve of this character!" I said. "He acts like he owns the place. Now he's got the whole road blocked."
He looked back over his shoulder. Our gaze followed his to see his partner was a few yards behind him, limping slowly and walking with great effort.
"Look, he's stopping traffic so she can cross safely," my wife observed. "What a sweet, caring gentleman."
Looking more closely, we discovered why she was hobbling: she had no foot on her right leg, just a stump. "Oh my gracious!" I exclaimed. "She's walking on a stump!"
It took several minutes for her to pass in front of us. Only when she was safely beyond the roadway did her partner leave his post in the middle of the road. Then they slowly continued on their way, side by side.
Watching them together, my impatience dissipated and my heart melted at this amazing example of devotion and commitment.
Now let me share with you the rest of the story.
The venerable old gentleman was a sand hill crane. Around here, we see these birds frequently and virtually always in pairs.
That's because sand hill cranes mate for life. They are fiercely protective of their partners. They care for each other even when their coats are not as shiny and their bodies not as sleek as they once were. They do not abandon companionships that become dated or difficult or inconvenient. They remain loyal to the end.
This gentleman's example of commitment and compassion and selflessness is one that all of us would do well to emulate. In our culture of throwaway relationships, it's reassuring to be reminded by so-called "lesser" species that, even through thick and thin, marriages can last a lifetime - perhaps an eternity.
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That was six years ago. Now, my dear sweet eternal companion Marcie is herself "mobility challenged" and needs a walker or a wheelchair to get around. Due to the arthritis in her shoulders, she can't power her own wheelchair and usually needs someone to push it for her. Most of the time, that person is me.
But please don't think I am complaining. To the contrary; helping my wife get around is not a chore or a burden - it is a joy. I love being with her; she's such an upbeat and delightful person. And like my old friend the sand hill crane, I take great pleasure in seeing to my companion's safety, comfort, and mobility.
Service, I have found, is its own reward. Nothing brightens my day more than looking for ways to help another. Nothing minimizes my petty problems than finding ways to help someone else deal with their own difficulties.
Thus, if you're looking for the perfect holiday present for yourself this year, give yourself the gift of GIVING service. Forget about your own concerns and troubles, stop worrying about what's under the tree for you, and throw yourself whole-heartedly into helping those around you. I promise you exceptional happiness.
Sometimes service comes with tons of fringe benefits. One of the gifts I am giving myself this Christmas season is to be Marcie's escort and chauffeur at all the holiday parties. That includes the women's gatherings, to which I would normally not be invited. It turns out that those ladies sure know how to cook!!! Plus I get to spend a little extra time with my sweet Marcie.
MARCIE AND I WISH A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OUR FRIENDS AT SUNBRIDGE, WALK-IN WILLS, AND ACROSS THE WORLD!