Lessons from the Greatest Generation


Every weekday morning, a small group of retired men meet at a local restaurant and gather around what they call “the Round Table.” Many, well into their nineties, meet to discuss politics, religion and how old they are getting over a cup of coffee and a sausage or cheese biscuit. All attend church regularly somewhere in town. Nearly all of them served our country during World War II or the Korean War. I would describe them as “conservative,” “patriotic,” and “Christian,” and maybe a little “grumpy.”

As a pastor in the community, I have learned that “the Round Table” is the place to go in town to get the latest news, a good laugh, and yes, even some gossip. I can always count on them to speak their minds, holding nothing back, whether it is regarding their latest physical maladies or what they really think about Obama.

One morning last week, part of the conversation went something like this:

“Preacher, what do you think about all of these poor refugees?”

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” I responded.

“And what do you think about all of these state governors saying that they are not allowed in their states?” asked another.

Before I could answer, another spoke up and said: “I can’t see Jesus turning away any of these refugees.”

Another said: “Yes, it may be risky. But Jesus did ask us to carry a cross, didn’t he?”

Someone added: “And he said that when we welcome the stranger, we welcome him.”

I tried to get a word in edgewise, but quickly realized that, this time, it was best for the preacher to sit back and just listen.

“Love your neighbor as yourself,” one said.

“Do unto others as you would have it done unto you,” said another.

“And all of these people are saying that we don’t have room for them. I got nine rooms in my house, and I only use three: the bathroom, the kitchen and the den. I fall asleep most nights in my recliner!”

“I got a whole upstairs with three bedrooms and a bath that I have not seen for years!”

“And these people would probably gladly live in our garages, even without heat!”

“And these young people are saying that we don’t have enough here in this country for them. They don’t know what it is like to live in this country when we really did not have anything. When I was growing up, we really did not have enough!”

“And if we turn our backs on these people, don’t you think it is only going to make people in this world hate us more than they already do.”

“We can’t let fear cause us to hate.”

“That’s right.”

Someone then changed the subject asking, “Preacher, have you seen John lately? He was in bad shape the last time we saw him. He could barely walk.”

“I thought he was going to fall the last time he came in here,” another said.

I said, “I will go by and check on him.”

Several responded at the same time: “Yes, we all need to do that.”

I then told them that I needed to go to the office. As I walked out the door, I thought to myself: “No wonder people call them “the greatest generation.”

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