This morning I met a disabled veteran. While we both poured iced tea and lemonade for people attending a luncheon in support of police officers who have fallen in the line of duty he shared part of his personal story. A Marine; he was shot during a four-year stint. He told me of people less fortunate than himself and recounted how he had rescued a small group of women and children from a small boat off of Somalia. He ignored my request for more information concerning his injuries and instead spoke of adopting a baby from that incident. He went on to mention that he had adopted a total of 8 children from various locations during his service and brought them back to America in order that they have a better life. As we spoke he became very enthusiastic, not only about his adopted kids and the set of twins born thereafter to his wife and himself, but also concerning the people he now helps as a volunteer firefighter in Citronelle and other communities.
I asked how he pays his bills if he works as a volunteer firefighter and he explained that he gets benefits which are barely enough. What matters to him, though, most of all is that he be able to help people. I had a bit of trouble understanding his words; they were a bit unclear. I would not say his speech was slurred but some of his words were slightly unintelligible. I left the luncheon humbled and amazed by his passion to serve others and to care for people.
If I had been in a hurry I may have not attended to a gentleman who was a bit difficult to comprehend. I may have just tuned him out or left that part of the room entirely. What a loss I would have experienced!
It brought to mind Moshe who in this week’s Parshah continues to stand up to Pharaoh. Described as having some type of speech impediment both in last week’s Parshah and that of the week before, Moshe demands the freedom of the Israelites. Instead, Pharaoh ignores Moshe, perhaps because of the manner in which he speaks or more probably because he is selfish and a bully.
Twice in early Exodus we are taught that Moshe is of impaired speech. Rather than be concerned about his own limitations he carries on with the most challenging of all tasks-speaking out publicly to help people in need.
We have much to learn from people. If only we would listen to the words of others.