Talking to people who have recently returned from six months deployment in the Middle East Area of Operations, I usually ask them “What did you learn?” An obvious question but not an easy one to answer! The harder I have tried the more difficult it seems… so maybe I should try another approach. As some of you might know, in a past life I worked as a microbiologist and this week I was reminded of a story.
His name was Fleming, he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day while working he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to help. There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a young boy, screaming and struggling to free himself but obviously losing the battle. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what would have been a slow and terrifying death.
The next day a fancy carriage pulled up outside the humble Scotsman’s cottage. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Fleming had saved. “I want to repay you,” said the nobleman, but the simple farmer refused any offer of “payment”. At that moment the farmer’s own son came in the door of the family hovel. “Is this your son?” The nobleman asked. “Yes,” the farmer replied proudly. “Then I’ll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the same level of education as my son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he’ll no doubt grow to be a man we will both be proud of.”
Farmer Fleming’s son attended the best schools of the time., finally graduating from St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London and went on to become known throughout the world as Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin. Years afterward the same nobleman’s son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time? Penicillin! The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill. The name of his son? Sir Winston Churchill!
Why do I bother telling this story? As I have returned home from my deployment in the MEAO, there are many people that I have tried to thank, but words seem inadequate, so I have experimented with doing thanks instead. Deployment has forced me to be thankful for things and people that I often take for granted. What have you got to be thankful for? Saying thanks is a great start, but what are you going to DO about it?
Somewhere in all that I’m thankful to God for a safe return, and the best way for me thank Him is in worship.
Chaplain Ian Whitley