Two Men

Two men are sitting at the breakfast bar (we call it the aircraft carrier) in the gray drizzle of this day. 

One is a soldier, the other a painter.  One is younger, the other a child of the sixties.  

Both have traveled far more than Jill and I put together: Europe and her off-the beaten-paths places – Nepal, the Hindu Kush and some of the ‘smaller peaks’ there.

They can each tell their stories compellingly, articulately.  Jill weeps quietly at some of the stories.

They use Google Earth to view homes, the train station, pubs, galleries in Brighton, England.  We watch how the younger has transformed one small home in Brighton since the passing of his mother.

The painter shows in galleries, the soldier has an adventure business and aspires to be a stunt man.  

Both are tall, the older has white hair where he had blonde before, and he explains to the younger that his grandfather had red hair as does he.  

They are father and son. 

Father with all his failings, and son for all his longings.  They are tentatively, poignantly reaching to 

Reaching to touch each other after a gap, an abyss of thirty missed years.  

And I am pushed to see that every relationship that we have that is restored or that endures does so as Miracle, and nothing less. 

And I am stunned to think, as one friend pointed out, how many, many times this is being multiplied (and not even attempted to play out) when we treat our bodies as our own as if we will never answer to another, or to Another.  

The father is haltingly, sometimes painfully trying to answer to another man who came from his body, so many, many years ago.  

Maybe the best miracles always start this way, courage, uncertainty, admixture of pain and hope, and always a possibility.  Did God make us to always hope for the possibility that most seems like Home?

It’s all unfolding in my home because my wife has this courage, has this unwavering hope for possibilities that others scarcely dream.  You probably call that prayer.  

People who humble me.

I have a privilege once a year.  

Our School of Entrepreneurship brings in 42-25 vets, many of them wounded where you can see it, and a few where you have to talk to them for a while before the wound(s) are obvious. 

I get to walk through their Hermann Brain Dominance Instruments with them.  I have learned a few things over the past four years after a 160 in depth encounters and conversations. 

A lot of people pay for us to fly these vets in from across the country and allow them to drink from a fire hydrant for eight days, and go home to continue launching their businesses.   What did I learn from that?

I have never seen a more grateful group.  The vets who return home and find people who invest in them simply because they served our country are almost all overcome, some to tears, that someone would say “Thank you” so clearly.  Find concrete ways to express your sentiments, or your simply sentimental.  

It is weird for them to come home and see what a small part of our lives that the war actually plays.  One vet cited some grafitti in Falujah that is in English and reads: “America is not at war.  America is at the mall.”  For these who have been in harm’s way, buried friends, not seen families consistently for a year or four, had friends commit suicide on returning home, or who are rebuilding their body without legs after an IED took their legs and a friend — it is hard.  Thank them when you see them.  Make it a little less weird, if not a little easier.  

They have a variety of opinions about Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet, and yet they went and served.  

They defy categorization.  I have seen their test scores, and they are as different as night is from day, all over the mental and personality map, and this sounds trite: unique.  Don’t stereotype them.  

If the governmental rationale to take the fight with militants, terrorists, and jihadists from New York’s trade center to their neighborhoods has a shred of sense, the least I owe the vets is a small thank you for fighting somewhere besides my neighborhood.  Thanks for living the horror 24/7 for a tour or four so that neither me nor my family has to fight in our neighborhood, nor lose sleep over who hates us vehemently every night, all night.  

Something else is curious about them.  They are more likely to succeed in launching their businesses than “civilians”.  I can’t help but wonder if slogging through failures that are constant in war, directives that are questionable but demand your absolute obedience of orders, and above all, some sense of owing your best if not your life to your team — does not uniquely qualify them for a higher degree of success in entrepreneurship.  

This year I did better.  I only had to turn away from one man who I got to speak to at the first banquet, and after hearing his dream for producing athletic wear and patting him on one of his two leg prostheses, I had to look away to wipe my tears.  Then I was able to hear his dream for his business. 

We forget.  

Churchill said it and we forget it at our peril.

“Never have so many owed so much to so few.”   We can be at the mall because they gear up to explore the halls of valor.  Find concrete ways to express thanks.