How many people sit alone with no one to talk to? The world moves rapidly around them and all they seek is a friendly conversation and to know that another human being cares. I started to think about the people I saw when I was a child; each day carrying all their possessions from place to place, looking through garbage cans for scraps of food. Today, as an adult, when I have food in my van I always stop to offer it to them. This is why I don’t go for long drives without fresh fruit and loaves of French bread. My day never passes without reflecting upon my Dad and the lessons he taught me.
When I was a child during the 1960s he often took me for walks in the old town Burnside area of Portland, Oregon on Saturday afternoons. Dad seemed to know so many people, continuously stopping to greet them as we moved down the sidewalk. Many of his friends seemed old from something other than age and his kind words always had a profound effect, which brought smiles to their faces.
Dad always invited one of his friends to have lunch with us and while we ate they shared stories about family and their lives since the war. I sat quietly and listened to each conversation hoping to learn more about my Dad’s life before I was born. These lunches were more than food. They were always a time of discovery. After we finished he never failed to walk with his friend back to where they had met and shake their hand before we parted company. I was in awe of the number of friends my Dad had, as each week we took someone new to lunch. It wasn’t until I was in my teens I realized these men were WWII homeless veterans. Once I understood, I knew it was a legacy I needed to keep alive.
My Dad used the GI Bill to attend the University of Portland when he returned home from the war. This afforded him a well-paying job as a surveyor for the United States Government. In the years that followed he built a comfortable life in the suburbs with his wife and three daughters. We lived in a nice home, drove new cars and never worried about the bills getting paid. Given all that my Dad achieved, he never forgot those whose lives had not been as fortunate.
Dad was extending love, caring and friendship to his brothers from the war, men whose lives after the war were not as blessed as his. He wanted them to know they were not alone; that someone cared about them. My Dad never told me he was “doing anything special” by buying lunches for “his friends”. He was a humble man with a generous heart, never indicating his actions were extraordinary. Even when a café owner would protest his lunch guest’s appearance Dad would stand his ground, insisting we be served.
In the years that passed I wondered if there would be a time for me to quietly act with love as my Dad had done. In the late 70s and early 80s a time did arrive for me to honor my Dad’s legacy. When the Vietnam War ended I remembered my Dad’s humble actions and I continued his tradition of making new friends and sharing lunch with a veteran. Today, veterans are returning from overseas, many alone, without friends or family will become homeless. There is a greater need today for my Dad’s lunches to continue as the number of homeless veterans increase. Would you please help me continue my dad’s ‘lunch legacy’ as our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan return?
Memorial Day is Every Day!