It was a day for respect, honoring those who had died! Men and women from the military, safety forces, family and/or friends! Lots of people, standing or sitting along the way, waving, applauding or just smiling as we passed by on that big old truck.
This had a humbling effect on me because, as I looked at all the retirees on that truck, I realized I was the oldest person there.
Later I had time to reflect, mostly on the past! The experiences I had been through, remembering some of the men I worked with who retired before I did, the dangerous jobs we shared and the aches and pains and utter exhaustion---but mostly the men!
The early firefighters, (I knew men who hired on in the 1940's & 1950's) and I will tell you they were not your typical bright-eyed, red-blooded American young men fresh off the farm. No! He was usually a vet from WWII or Korea. Tough as nails, blooded during the war, he could out-drink, out-argue, out-fight and, when needed, out-work most other men!
And once they could see I fit most of that mold, I was accepted as a brother! They took care of me as I took care of them. We ate together, slept in the same room, worked together and trained together! Some meant more to me than others over the years. I remember one man who had been married at least three times and had children by all three women. He loved each child and they all seemed to love him back. Dick worked every day he was off to pay for their support!
His health later was not good. He had diabetes and circulation problems causing him to take lots of pills. One day at station #3 he was standing morning line up with the rest of my crew with his head down! I asked if he was feeling OK and he mumbled his wife had given him a letter for me! This was unusual to say the least! The envelope was addressed to Lt. Bill Tompkin. On opening it, I read, "Dear LT! Would you please make sure Dick takes his medications as I caught him flushing them down the toilet last night."
I looked him in the eye and said, "Dickie, do you know what this says?" He replied, "Aw Billy!" and blushed! I told him how I could be in the doghouse if I didn't watch him take his meds at work. So he did! Dick died a couple years after he retired of a stroke and I realized I loved that ornery, hard-working old fart. Just as much as his children loved him.
When Jesus called His disciples to "follow me" and to "come and see" he didn't ask for a resume; nor a passing grade on a test. There was no background check! He didn't ask the neighbors for references or even have conversations about their spirituality! Maybe he knew a couple of them because they all lived in a small community. The boats were wooden and Jesus may have helped work on one or two.
Jesus found what I found in those firefighter I began work with all those years ago. I found strength and courage, talent and comaraderie. As did, I am sure Jesus found in His disciples. God is love! Even as ornery and, at times, obnoxious as a firefighter could be, I believe God accepted them all! Why? (I'm going to Hell for this) Because most every day you could hear in conversation someone was praying by using the words: JESUS CHRIST! Hahah!
Walk iin love with almighty God who loves even me: a sinner for my language!