No. 228



A friend sent me something the other day in the mail that brought back a lot of memories. It was a story about a young man who had just returned home after having fought in Vietnam. When I read this story it brought tears to my eyes and made me realize once more that my priorities and values were wrong for so many years. As a sidebar, in light of the story that I want to share with you in a moment, you may want to stop and consider where you are in terms of giving unconditional love to members of your own family.

Back in the early 1970s I had just started my speaking career and an official with the Veterans Administration asked me to speak at a Vietnam Veterans Appreciation Day Program to be held at the outdoor convention plaza in Little Rock, Arkansas. I accepted, not knowing what I was getting myself into, because like most Americans I was glad the war was over and our men and women in the Armed Services had come home.

The day dawned bright and clear and I was to follow then Governor and now former Senator Dale Bumpers on the program. Naturally, after he spoke the audience scattered like a covey of quail and instead of having the rapt attention of a large audience, I had a few veterans here and there, walking around, talking to each other, and most showed very little interest in what I had to say. As a result, I did a very poor job because I could not relate to them. In my opinion, one of the great tragedies in our nation is how we treated many of our Vietnam Veterans when they came home from this terrible war.

Now, here is that story I mentioned earlier. It happened several years ago when this Vietnam Veteran called his parents from San Francisco and said, Mom & Dad, Im coming home but I have a favor to ask. I have a friend I would like to bring with me. Sure, they replied, Wed love to meet him. There is something you should know, the son continued, He was hurt pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a land mine and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go and I want him to come live with us.

Im sorry to hear that son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live. No, Mom & Dad, I want him to live with us. Son, said the father, you dont know what you are asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden on us. We have our own lives to live, and we cant let something like this interfere with our lives. I think you should just come home and forget about this guy. He will find a way to live on his own.

At this point the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him. A few days later, however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. Their son had died after falling from a building, they were told, the police believed it was suicide. The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body of their son. They recognized him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didnt know. Their son had only one arm and one leg.

The parents in this story are like many of us. We find it easy to love those who are good-looking or fun to be around, but we dont like people who inconvenience us or make us feel uncomfortable. We would rather stay away from people who arent as healthy, beautiful or smart as we are. Thankfully there is someone who loves us with an unconditional love that welcomes us into the forever family, regardless of how messed up we are. Tonight, before you tuck yourself in...say a little prayer. God is a God of the second chance. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)