A Petal for Your Thoughts: Doing and Being

With my vase full of flowers, I’m thinking of Anne of Green Gables and her opinions about the feelings of flowers. 

Whether or not flowers actually have personalities and might argue with each other, I think there is a truth we can learn from these spring blossoms. A truth besides not to worry so much, that is. (Matthew 6).

Have you ever recognized that flowers are good at both doing and being? They grow, they produce roots. stems, petals and pollen and they blossom. Some do this year after year. But then they can stand in a garden or vase and just be. They can be cheery and beautiful. We love them for this being. Then it comes back to doing because they are cheer givers, sunshine sharers and beauty bearers. 

For us people, it can be easy to value doing, can’t it? It’s fun to check off a list of accomplishments! Doing is important. God thinks so, too. There are plenty of verses in the Bible about doing. Like this one from Galatians 6:10,

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (ESV) 

But sometimes it is easy to overvalue doing, isn’t it? To value it more than being perhaps? 

Just like there are verses in the Bible about doing, there are also verses about being.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted…” (Ephesians 4:32)

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2, ESV)

When I pray for people I care about, I have prayed that we will be doing the things God wants us to be doing, but maybe I should pray more that we will be being the people He wants us to be. The cool part about this is that no matter what our physical capabilities, by God’s grace, we can be.  And I would venture to say that – like with the flowers – we appreciate other people’s doings, but we love most their beings

Still, like with the flowers, doing and being are intertwined as much as mandevilla on a trellis. For example, being kind and tenderhearted leads us to “forgiving one another,” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV). One leads to the other and back again. Interesting, eh?

Well, while you’re doing something out of being a kind friend like arranging a vase of blossoms to brighten someone’s day, you may want to put some thought as to whether such-and-such bloom really would appreciate being with such-and-such…just in honor of Anne. 

Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen

Ten minutes was all they had. Ten minutes to share a kind word and some home-cooking. Ten minutes to send off the American boys who might never come home.

So out came the sandwiches, out came the angel food cakes, on came the jukebox and on went the coffee. After all, ten minutes was all they had.

Can you picture it? The troop train clangs to a stop and young soldiers pour off. Mothers and daughters hand out plates of food as if serving their own sons and brothers. What would the hospitality and kind words mean to you if you were heading off to war? How would angel food cake taste when you knew it would be the last you would have in a long time or when you’d been eating military food? What would you do with the pen-pal address hidden in your popcorn ball?

This is the story of the North Platte Canteen. During WWII, the North Platte Canteen was a hopping place as troop trains stopped in that small Nebraska town on their way across the country. North Platte’s people saw this as an opportunity. Why not seize those ten-minute stops to encourage those American soldiers?

So the homemakers got together. Soon the husbands and children joined in to whisk egg whites with forks, serve sandwiches, form sticky popcorn balls, and chip in their pocket money. My own Grandpa Dan who grew up in Nebraska remembers that his mother sent money to support the Canteen. I’ve wondered if my Grandpa Ken who served in the Air Force during WWII ever stopped in North Platte.

A special thank-you to my Grandpa Dan and Grandma Ruth for sharing Once Upon a Town with me and for Grandpa's service in the US Navy.

A special thank-you to my Grandpa Dan and Grandma Ruth for sharing Once Upon a Town with me and for Grandpa’s service in the US Navy.

And what was the impact of those ten minutes? Well, within the pages of Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen by journalist Bob Greene, I discovered that North Platte became famous among American soldiers, families pulled together to serve, a little boy sold his shirt to raise money, a lifelong marriage began with a popcorn-ball connection, and decades later many of those involved teared up as they shared their Canteen stories. One soldier even took his children on a post-war road trip to show them the Canteen where they found his name in the guest book. These are the true stories of sacrifice, community, hard work and love that capture life on the homefront and show how mere minutes of kindness can leave a permanent impression and change many lives.

I found myself intrigued by the fact that serving especially scrumptious homemade food out of the Canteen to the soldiers was a private idea. It wasn’t a government project. It didn’t take a bureaucratic committee. It did take a host of volunteering and kind homemakers, farmers and country children. What a great example of charity that is “relational, local and voluntary”!

While I don’t endorse the entire book – please read with discretion/some sections are not suitable for children – particular stories are definitely worthwhile. For me, Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen was a productive read and a challenge. Could we be as dedicated as Mr. Greene to collecting the stories of those who have gone before us but with a focus on God’s glory? Would we be willing to give of our time and resources with such gusto if given an opportunity like the women, children and men at North Platte? Could they have used those ten-minute intervals more fruitfully for Christ’s Kingdom? Are similar opportunities waiting for us today? Hmmm. Food for thought.

May you all have a very blessed Memorial Day weekend. As we take time to relax with family and friends and eat something yummy like angel food cake, may we also take time to remember and be grateful for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our liberty.