Friday, November 11, 2011

embrace the uncomfortable.

It's unavoidable.
Any time I travel in uniform, most of the time when I go out to eat in uniform, and definitely if I'm shopping in uniform for some reason, it's as if I send a flare up to whatever ceiling I'm under that says "come talk to me, veterans." Vets are not known for their timing or social graces. Their most common stereotype is "incessant story tellers" or "emotionally unstable." This is true. Some of the most relentless people I've ever met were the retired military folk that populate airports, restaurants and are sparsely scattered throughout wherever I'm living at the time. That and realtors -- maybe it's the commission, or maybe the entrance battery exam to sell homes is a test of how much love you can force on every person you know. 
Like any small child, a human that demands your undivided attention can be exhausting. I get that. But what is the redeeming grace that allows you to more than just "tolerate" a child hungry for your eye contact and heedfulness? Love. Love, and you realize that they need you.
That is what your veteran needs. 
For you to love them and realize that they need you. They need your appreciation, your attention, your listening heart and your eye contact, like any small child. I do not imply that they're small children, however. In fact if anything, guaranteed those veterans that would approach you, a total stranger, and want to create from scratch an informal relationship, has had a sizable portion of his childhood taken away from him.

From 17-22 much of our nation spends it's time creating positive memories. 
Whether or not you go to college or stay home and drive too fast, drink too much, date the wrong people, spend too much or take a dangerously unintelligent vacation for five days at the last minute to a ludicrously far away place -- at those ages we were making positive memories. Albeit, not necessarily intelligent ones. 
Many, many veterans at that age were serving overseas in a war taking place on foreign soil. There are few alones like being apart from your family on a holiday, and many vets know that first-hand all too well. 
Those that fought in WWII or Korea have mostly passed on, those that haven't are more than likely not out and about very much. Many if not most though, saw things that cannot be shown on even HBO or Showtime, and never will be, they're that horrific. Those were violent, personal wars.
Those vets that were in Vietnam were very likely to have been invited to attend against their will. Coming home from being overseas for a year or more, they returned home to protests, being spat on and outright assaulted. So they traveled in civillian clothes. 

How much would you trade the last few years of your childhood for? Most vets traded theirs for less-than good pay. The moment they stepped off the plane in whatever foreign nation we were fighting in, they lost the remaining years of joy and traded it in for experiencing things you probably never will. 
Not all vets, but many, many of them. And chances are, if you're socially uncomfortable with the veteran talking to you, he was one of those.
Instead of dismissing a dirty old man wearing far too many accessories and articles of clothing that broadcast he served in the military at one time or another, what if you thank them?
If you're a daring, adventurous, rebellious soul with blatant disregard for social safety, ask the vet a question that says sincerely "I care about you" or "I don't know you, but you seem interesting and I'd at least like to meet you." 
Look at a badge and ask where or how he got it. 
"What was the 34th Artillery?"
Ask him how long it's been since he was in. He'll laugh, but it will get the conversation rolling.

I promise you, whatever you show up to a little bit late for today or in the future, if you smile and quietly explain yourself by saying "I'm sorry, I got caught up talking to a Mr. (insert name), who wanted to tell me about his 4 years serving in (insert place). Did you know that he (insert fact about the person)?" you'll be just fine. 
Sincerely caring about someone you've never met before can be unsettling, but to truly listen and be interested someone who gave some of the most exciting years of their life away in exchange for serving our nation is one of the best way to truly love them.

Ephesians 4:2 "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bear with one another in love."
1 John 3:18 "Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in action and in truth."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

nothing crazy or out of the ordinary.

Called my brother.



"The Patriots game today is on Fox. I don't get Fox with my stupid bunny ears. Can I watch tv at your house?"

"Yeah. I just need a 50 foot cable. Let me pick one up, I'm at Walmart."

I love that guy.

Two days ago he came over with his girlfriend, Haley, to watch the next episode of Terra Nova with my wife and I. After popcorn chicken had all been devoured and the episode concluded, he and I adjourned to my room for some standard catch-up conversation.

The girls sat in the living room talking about whatever it is womenfolk find important, and we largely paid them no mind.

"Check this out. (the trailer plays) Doesn't that look sick?"

"Yeah. It'll probably be really good."

"Oh, I've got to show you what I got on the ol' iPad."

"What is it?"


"Sweeeeeet! How is it?"

"Playable. The UI (user interface, or how the game "looks" over all) is a little bit convoluted, but I think on a long road trip it will be fun."

"Or a plane flight. That's what the iPad is for. Yeah, I really like this."

"I know."

"Know what I miss?"

He looked at me, patiently expressionless as only my brother can be. "What."

"Throwing a football. Last week after the Pats lost I threw one to myself for like half an hour outside."

"Straight up? Nice."


"Well come over sometime. Give me a call and if I'm not busy, we'll throw a football around outside or on the quad."


"Sure. James. I love my new espresso machine. Robert picked it up for like ten bucks, and we use it all the time. It's like five cups of coffee in one cup, and delicious."

"We just do coffee every morning and sometimes at night."

"Lame. That is so 2011."

"You idiot, that's what year we're in."

"Robert and I live in the future."

"How fun is that for you two, living in the future?"

"Fun James. Very, very fun."

Our conversations fly by quicker than when we talk with almost anyone else, but that's alright, we can do that.

We're brothers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

first respiratory movements

I read a simple descriptive paragraph today in my book "Atlas of the Anatomy" that painted a beautiful picture. The italicized words are from the text, the un-italicized words are the imagery married to to science.
"Simple Cuboidal Epithelial Tissue" covers all the tubular cavities that divide the lungs of a fetus.
An unborn infant.

The cells are tightly aligned with each other and have a cube-like shape. At birth, with the first respiratory movements, the cavities begin to dilate
Baby's first breath. The empty spaces in the tiny him or her begin to shrink, they are no longer needed. Life pours in, relentless, filling every area of the small, quivering body.
As arms lurch and legs stab at the air below tightly squinted shut eyes, the lungs continue to change.

the connective tissue that separates the epithelial layers shrinks, and the cuboidal epithelium transforms into a simple pavement epithelial tissue.
It is finished. There is no going back. The lungs have changed and are no longer content to live in murky, weightless darkness. They will forever need. Need air, a heart, blood flow.

Life is paved in the lungs, literally knit together in the womb and irreversibly born into the world.

John 3: 4-5: "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.