Thursday, April 22, 2010


Don was an 18-year-old wild but disciplined, if that makes any sense, partying college student in St. Louis.  One of his favorite activities was lifting weights, and because of his attitude, nobody messed with him.  He would as soon go to jail for defending his honor and the honor of his family as take anybody's bullshit.  When some smaller kid in school was being bullied, Don was the hero who made sure the kid never worried about that again, which is why he had an almost comical Pied Piper following everywhere he went, flanked by a group of rejects with their tough talk who would seek shelter behind him when trouble approached.  

I'm not really sure what God thought of this guy, Don.  He meant well, and his life had never really been easy.  He had five brothers who regularly made him meaner. When I replay the events in my head that led up to his being inducted into the United States Army, I either laugh or cry, depending on how my own day is shaping up.

Don never won anything.  His whole life he scrapped for everything from a quarter to go to the movies to a snack when he was hungry, stealing tomatoes from a nearby neighbor's garden and plums from trees scattered throughout the neighborhood where he and his six siblings grew up.  "My neighborhood," he calls it now, and ironically I bought a house so close to his childhood home that I could almost throw a rock from my back yard into theirs.  We spend a lot of time now reminiscing about the old days while sitting on my patio gazing toward the house he grew up in that is now occupied by another big boisterous family with the kids threatening to take over the territory.  

Tired after a long day of classes, and anxious to grab his six-pack out of the refrigerator and settle in for a quiet night, Don flipped the old TV on in his little apartment that was above a business in downtown St. Louis.  The Vietnam War was going on and when he changed channels to what was usually his after-classes Western, he saw, instead, that the draft lottery had just come on.  

As he sat here winding down with a few beers, God said, "Let's see, son, if we can put some of that meanness, that spirit, those muscles to some good use."

Don had never won anything in his life, did I mention that?  Until then.  As he popped open his second beer, the voice on TV said, "And the winner is July 9!  July 9, you are number one."  

He was mid-swig when the invisible man's voice came out of his television set.  There was not any DVR or digital TV of course, so he could not just run it back and make sure he heard correctly.  But when they ran down all the numbers again at the end, there it was, big as life, July 9, the winner, and Don's whole life changed.

God was pleased.  Those days and nights that the nineteen-year-old boy spent cold, wet, homesick, and a little angry turned him into a man who learned what home and family really meant, and he set about making a family and a home when he returned, still willing to defend his people, but a little less likely to do so with his fists.  

Yes, God was pleased that the draft made a man of this boy, and even though I might question God's methods, I am honored to have this man by my side.  Had the events been a little different, had July tenth, or July eighth been the lucky number, just that small alteration could have sent our paths on different courses and we might have never found one another.

And I am pleased.   


Jessie said...

i truly believe that some things are meant to be. while there are many choices we make daily of our own freewill--some roads have names of those we know, love, hate, or even our own.

a nice post.

Magpie said...

What a wonderful tribute. Some things are necessary and some things wrapped in wrongness work out right.

PattiKen said...

I'm so glad that your path led you to meeting Don instead of walking unknowingly past his name on a Wall in Washington.

Good job.

Tracy said...

Things always happen for a reason! Lucky for you both.

Jingle said...

Happy Friday!

Dreamhaven said...

Karma can be an enlightening thing. Happy TT