By Brenda Black
I watched the little brunette perch twenty feet in the air atop a tower of human spirit. Sturdy men and steady ladies pyramided their way center court to the cheers of college sports fans. The stack of flesh and school pride was even more impressive when I watched the diminutive dare devil flipped down to land on two feet and triumphantly lift one and a half arms into the air! All I could think was that beautiful little lady must have been loved by incredible parents who never allowed a birth defect to stand in the way of anything their daughter wanted to accomplish. Her spirit was never suppressed.
There is a story of a school teacher who asked her first graders to draw a picture of something they were thankful for. She thought of how little these children from poor neighborhoods actually had for which to give thanks. She reasoned that most of them would no doubt sketch pictures of turkeys on tables with lots of other food. She was surprised with the paper that one small boy handed in. It was the picture of a human hand, crudely drawn. The other children tried to guess whose hand their classmate had scribbled. One said it was the hand of God because He brings the food to us. Another said it was the hand of a farmer because he raises and grows the food. Finally, when the others were back at their work, the teacher bent over the child’s desk and asked whose hand it was. "Why, its your hand, teacher," he mumbled. Then she recalled how frequently at recess she had taken this scrubby, forlorn child by the hand. She did it with many of the children and never thought much about it. But that little boy did. You see, she refreshed his spirit and he never forgot it.
The human spirit is remarkable, capable of overcoming all odds to rise to great heights! But the human spirit is impressionable. It can be deeply stirred by simple acts of kindness or just as easily crushed from lack of love. I admire those who model this human quality and those who empower it with love and sacrifice.
That's why I get weepy when our nation's heroes go off to war or return home to the welcoming arms of loving family and friends. I wonder what kind of grit and how much courage dwells in the heart of a soldier. Who challenged them to be all they could be? How do those young, left-behind wives continue to patiently uplift their brave husbands and embolden the children who don't understand why daddy is half way around the world. That amazing human spirit that fights for freedom and lives for others and dies for country astounds me! They deserve my greatest respect, my cheers and my thanks. Yet, I fear that simple gratitude will never be enough compensation for their sacrifices and service. But this Friday we can still try. As individuals, as communities, as a nation, we can pay tribute to the American human spirit at its best on Veterans Day, 2011.
“Today, our Nation comes together to honor our veterans and commemorate the legacy of profound service and sacrifice they have upheld in pursuit of a more perfect Union. Through their steadfast defense of America’s ideals, our service members have ensured our country still stands strong, our founding principles still shine, and nations around the world know the blessings of freedom. As we offer our sincere appreciation and respect to our veterans, to their families, to those who are still in harm’s way, and to those we have laid to rest, let us rededicate ourselves to serving them as well as they have served the United States of America.” (Veterans Day 2011 Proclamation)
Some of these noble warriors began as scared little boys in need of a guiding and loving hand to encourage them. Some have returned home with scars and handicaps they've had to overcome in order to stand proud again. But all give us reason to cheer and look upon them in amazement for the human spirit that dwells within them.
May God protect our troops. May we never forget how blessed we are because of their courage, strength and willingness to go into battle. This Veterans Day, please take the time to express due honor. It will do your own spirit good.