I was in the middle of creating a post about the Syrian refugee issue when the sudden thought of, “Screw this,” popped into my head. Sure, I have plenty to say. But what good is it? I’ve decided that people’s minds are pretty much set on the issues of the day. As my buddy Larry has said to me, “I’ve realized that once I offer an opposing viewpoint to someone, the odds of them saying, ‘You know, I was totally wrong on that issue and you’ve made me see the light!,’ are pretty much nil, so why waste my time? I don’t need the frustration!”
Ain’t that the truth? One of my goals for this journey was to reduce the amount of stress I have to deal with. I’ve always been “politically involved” – I’ve worked on political campaigns, marched and protested, supported causes, blah, blah, blah. And you know who it’s had the most impact on? Me. And my stress level. So I decided to let it go … at least for this post. Well mostly.
No. Instead, I’d like to share a story about something that happened this past week where I’m staying … sort of a different “refugee” story. One that I got to witness first-hand.
When I made plans last January to winter in south Texas, I didn’t stop to think that there would be a lot of other “winter Texans,” as they refer to the folks that come down here with their RV’s. But it’s a pretty common thing, I guess. The area caters to them and I’ve discovered there are quite a few RV parks in the area. Not too many of them allow for tents, which is one of the reasons why I’m at this particular one.
I’m the only tenter here… Liz, the owner, told me there aren’t many of us. Usually one or two a season, but that’s it. Not too many RVers yet, either. For the most part, I’ve been here by myself. Most of the them don’t start arriving until after Thanksgiving. Right now, there are about 5 RVers here, mostly from the Great North – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. One from Illinois and another from Nebraska. I’ve met some of them, but have discovered that most everyone sort of keeps to themselves.
The host couple are from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – Len and Susie. Their mannerisms and speech are straight out of “Fargo”. You could imagine Len being the guy shoveling snow when the cop stops to follow up on his call about the “little odd looking fellow out by the lake”. They’re great people: very kind and very attentive. Len stops by at least once a day to sit and chat a bit. Susie also stops by daily to say “Hello” to Frank. They love him! And Frank’s taken to them, too. There have been a couple of occasions where I’ve come out of the main building (where the restrooms are) to find Len kneeling next to Frank, exclaiming, “You see? I told you he was coming back!”
Joe the gardener stops by, too. The three of us will swap stories, talk about dogs we’ve had, tell jokes, etc. etc. It’s been very relaxing for the most part (I won’t talk about the obnoxious guy with the huge RV and equally huge TV antenna that’s now eight feet from the back of my tent … I’m trying to maintain inner peace here …)
But I digress. On to the story.
This is an adult, “Over 55” park and campground. Evidently that’s the way it is with all them around here. Early last week, I noticed a young guy had stopped by and engaged in a long conversation with Len. Didn’t think much of it at the time … until last Thursday, when I noticed Len helping the guy back his trailer into the last spot in the row, across the way from the field my tent’s in. It was only after they finished the parking job that I noticed his pregnant wife get out of the truck. She looked like she was ready to give birth right on the cement patio next to the trailer! Following her were two little girls and two dogs, a chihuahua and a big, chocolate brown lab.
Joe was already sitting with me, taking one of his six or seven daily work breaks. He sort of reminds me of a Hispanic Goober. You rarely saw Goober work – he was always sitting in front of Floyd’s barbershop, waiting for Andy Taylor and Opie to stop by so they could talk about that day’s gossip.
Today, Joe was taking a break from working on a washing machine’s “transmitchon”. I have to say, the guy has a real mechanical gift. Len, too. Between the two of them? I’m pretty sure they could have figured out how to fix Apollo 13’s problems about twice as fast as Gary Sinise did, rescuing Tom Hanks so he could then go back in time to save Matt Damon! You betcha!
Anyhow, once they were all settled in, Len headed over our way and pulled up a chair. I was going to say something like, “so this isn’t an adults-only park?” Not that it matters to me. Kids are great. I’ve met very few bad kids. Bad parents are another story …
Joe beat me to it though. “So you let them stay, huh?,” he asked. He had a slightly incredulous tone to his voice.
Len looked at him with a weird expression on his face. He paused for a minute as if he was trying to gather this thoughts together. Then he let loose – not at Joe. It was more his general observations on things.
“You know,” he started. “This guy has been all over the valley looking for a place to stay for about 3 weeks. He’s just bought a house, he’s waiting for it to close, and he can’t find anywhere that’ll take him. To stay for three lousy weeks! They all say, ‘Nope. Sorry. We’re an Over 55 park.’ There was one place that was gonna take him, but then he said he had two little girls … and they said, ‘Sorry, no kids!'”
“This guy did two tours in Afghanistan! His wife is ready to pop any minute. He needs a place to stay And no one has a place for him? No one can help this guy?” Len was giving in to his exasperation at this point, getting louder and more angry as he continued.
“We say, ‘Support Our Troops!’ We say, ‘God bless the U.S.A!’ But when this guy … who put his life on the line for two tours … needs a place to stay, no one will help him? What the, pardon my language, goll durn heck is THAT all about? There was no way he was gonna get a ‘no’ from me. No sirree, Bob!
Pardon my language? Goll durn heck? Yes sirree Bob, Len was really mad! Any second now, Joel and Ethan Coen were gonna step out from behind my tree and buy the rights to Len’s story.
Joe asked him, “What’s Liz gonna say?” Liz lives in Fort Worth, about 500 miles northeast of the campground. She was very accommodating in dealing with me over the phone, giving me about a week of extra time before having to pay for my 2-month stay. I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to mind. But you never know, right?
Len smiled. He chuckled a bit and then said in perfect Upper Peninsula-ese, “You just let me worry about ole’ Lizzie!” It was magnificent! I actually had tears well up in my eyes.
“God bless you, Len,” was all I could think of to say. He looked at me and started to well up a bit, too. “God bless ALL of us,” he said … the exact same thing the camp host in Alabama replied when I said, “God bless you,” to him for staying after hours, waiting for me to show up.
Good people rise to the occasion. Len and Susie are good people.
I still don’t know the young fellow’s name. Susie told me his wife had her baby the day before Thanksgiving. Another little girl. Yep, a refugee story in its own right. I wish more people could look at the plight of refugees and say the same thing Len did: “They need a place to stay and no one will help them? What the, pardon my language, goll durn heck is THAT all about?”
Happy Thanksgiving. God bless us all!