By April Terry (personal blog http://faithwarming.blogspot.com)
If I get up early enough in the morning on Sundays, I get the pleasure of watching CBS’ Sunday Morning program. It almost never disappoints and this Sunday was no different. This one had a segment about a woman from Vernon, TX, named Peggy Harris. Peggy had been married six weeks to her husband when he shipped off to war in World War II. Then, over time, she searched for word as to what happened to her husband. After many attempts over the years, one even as recent as 2005, there was never a definitive answer from the government as to what had happened to Billie D. Harris. His widow remained true to him for sixty-eight years and never remarried. Finally, Billie’s cousin, Alton Harvey, decided to look into his whereabouts and he requested his military records. It was there that he discovered that all along Billie had been buried at the cemetery for American servicemen in Normandy, France.
Billie’s cousin also learned more in his research. He learned that a street in the town of Les Ventes was named after Billie and then he learned that three times a year for the last sixty years a ceremony is held by the city of Les Ventes to honor Billie’s sacrifice. He is honored in the town because, in spite of being terminally injured, he managed to navigate his plane away from the city and crashed into the nearby countryside saving the lives of the townspeople. So, now, each year Peggy travels to Les Ventes on a pilgrimage. You can see the segment yourself online here at CBS’s website.
When I think about this story, I wonder about the kind of person who impacts people to that extent. I try to imagine the kind of person who, after only six weeks of marriage, could impact his widow for an entire lifetime. I try to imagine a person whose death saved lives, and whose sacrifice is honored by a town for so many years afterward. Billie had a short life, but he left a huge impact.
When I think about people like Billie, I realize that I become more cognizant of my own impact on others in the world. I don’t want to believe that our lives are just random events that have no meaning or purpose. I couldn’t live with that kind of hopelessness. Instead, I have decided to strive to live out a philosophy where meaningful interactions are commonplace and life is a journey with intent. Of course, not every interaction feels like a meaningful and important one, but what if many of our interactions are much more important than we think they are?
Maybe it’s because of the shortness of some people’s lives that they impact us so much. Maybe the precipice between life and death causes us all to evaluate our existence, our relationships, our beliefs, and our purpose. Maybe that’s why people who leave us too soon have so much impact on the direction of our lives and the content of our hearts. I think that, but then, I remember someone like Mother Theresa and I am reminded that her long life impacted many and the example of her servant-hood impacted that many more people. I am learning to understand that our impact in the world has to do with our willingness to love others in spite of the harm that might come to us or even in spite of the fear that there could be harmful consequences. Living that kind of dangerous love means that we have chosen to be more human than any other life choice we could make.
June 11th, 2012 · 3 Comments
Categories: DE Thoughts