Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Other Side of Sam

He is 83 years old; business owner; talkative; belligerent; with a sly smile behind his hardened bravado. We have butted heads over the years; he can be a real pain in the butt but he is honest, truthful and fair.

I knew he was a veteran of World War II; went in at 18, he was infantry in Italy, France, Germany. He wonders why God spared him. His best friend died right beside him; they had been foxhole buddies through most of the war. He was the first squad leader in Dachau concentration camp. His eyes became shiny as he told me that. He said, “Jerry, I saw things a man should never have to see.” As squad leader, he struggled to keep his soldiers from executing on the spot, the German officers who were in charge of the concentration camp. He stopped talking and just looked at the floor…

His head came up with a smile. He changed subjects. He said, “Jerry, do you know I was born in Poland? My parents, my brother and grandmother were escaping Russia when my mother began to have labor pains. They stopped at a farm in Poland. The only room was in the barn. The farmer’s wife went off to get the midwife but before she got back, I was born. January 16, 1923.” He said, “I was born in a barn, like someone else you know” (meaning Jesus). He knows I’m a Christian and Sam is a Jew.

We finished our business. I thanked him for his service to his adopted country. He smiled and said, “It’s a long way from a barn in Poland to Minneapolis.” I guess so.

How many people do we pass each day and yet we know very little if anything about their lives? Lord, slow me up to value each and every soul that comes into my life. If it be your will Lord, bless me with the gift of truly knowing your sons and daughters.

Yes, it is a long way from a barn in Poland to Minneapolis. Eighty three busy years…a long way but the time, yes the time, he said, has flown so fast.

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