On My Way to Work This Morning…

” I immediately knew that if I was thinking that much about him that it was probably God reminding me to say something to him when I left the store…if he was still there. I said something out loud to God like, “I’m gonna be late if I talk to him…”

Doug Pacheco

On my way to work this morning I stopped at the grocery store to pick a salad for lunch and some fruit for breakfast. ( I sound healthy, but my cheat days are killer!) This morning when I walked into the grocery store, I saw a man sitting on the curb, head down, reading a little booklet. I didn’t pay much attention and walked into to make my purchase and leave.

Now, most things during my day are forgotten almost as soon as I see them. I forget the name of the check out lady, although she was really nice and made a point to wish me a good day. I should pay attention more than I do, but this Irish setter just has too many rabbits jumping around to keep my attention on one thing too long.

The guy outside on the curb however, continued to be a thought in my head the whole time I was in the store. I immediately knew that if I was thinking that much about him that it was probably God reminding me to say something to him when I left the store…if he was still there. I said something out loud to God like, “I’m gonna be late if I talk to him…” to which the Lord immediately said,

“Like I don’t know THAT?…

“Do you think I made you an encourager just when you want to be?”

“Do you not think I know what time it is?” I shut up…quick.

Convenience is not a part of our calling, regardless of the gift you have. It doesn’t matter if you WANT to do it…it doesn’t even matter if you think you CAN do it or not…just flow in your gift. The Lord has a way at kicking you in the pants and when you turn around to look and see who did it, he smiles at you and winks… today, I didn’t get a wink. Ouch!

I asked God to forgive me…I get so selfish sometimes because…well, I just am. I don’t mean to be, it’s just I can only focus on one thing at a time and I get into this “expediting mode” where I want to be efficient but lose sight of being effective. This was one of those times…and it perturbed me that I had to interrupt my choice between a melon bowl or a fresh fruit with strawberries bowl. Why I haven’t been struck down by lightning yet…I’m not sure but thank God for grace.


I walked out of the store and sure enough; he was still there. As I walked toward him, I made note that he was wearing a green tee shirt, the kind they give out as issue in the Army or Marines. Holes in the back, a tattoo on his right arm that read, “For God and Country”. Another tattoo on his forearm read, “The Presidents Own”. I took a chance and said, “Good Morning Devil Dog!” (Designation, MARINE) he looked up at me, stood up and extended his hand to me. “thank you” he said in a soft voice. “Thank you for recognizing young man.”

I asked him his name and he said it was Carl. No last name, just Carl. I asked him when he served and he told me 1964 -72…Vietnam…Tet Offensive…one of 13 survivors in his company. He had done 8 years and survived one of the most horrific wars in our Nation’s history. He smiled warmly. “When I finished my tours I came back to the States and was going to marry my sweetheart, but…” he hesitated, looked down at the ground and quietly said “she’d stopped writing and” swallowed hard, “she’d already gotten married to someone else.” “All I had was my trumpet, and decided to re-sign, stateside this time”.

Sitting next to him was a worn out case…the kind you keep an instrument in. He continued, “I had the opportunity to audition for the United States Marine Corps Band, and I was accepted. I became first trumpet and served for another 8 years. His eyes were clear blue, his voice was now strong and proud, and he looked at me and asked me, ‘May I play for you sir?” I couldn’t keep it together, and nodded yes. He reached down and removed his trumpet and with a perfect lip and clear pitch, he played The National Anthem.

There were probably two dozen people in the parking lot. EVERY SINGLE one of them stood still, men removed their hats, and others including myself sang out loud. I couldn’t sing very well, because there were tears in my eyes…so did everyone else.

“ I had just asked the Lord to give me an opportunity to play today,,, then you walked up. I know my face turned red, because of my previous reluctance. He just shook my hand and said, “Thank you for the opportunity.”

When he had finished, every person came up and began giving him money…I dug deep too and he probably received two hundred dollars. He smiled at me, and said, “ I had just asked the Lord to give me an opportunity to play today,,, then you walked up. I know my face turned red, because of my previous reluctance. He just shook my hand and said, “Thank you for the opportunity.”

No sooner had he said it, then he turned with his trumpet, and began walking away. I called after him and said, “Carl, where do you live? What do you need?” He smiled again, only bigger, “Jesus knows my needs my friend… but thank you for asking”. Off he walked, singing as he went and in that moment, I realized that it wasn’t he who needed the encouragement, it was me.

Carl, with his thankful heart, had no room for bitterness or anger. Only a thankful spirit for a Savior who knew his needs far better than anyone else could do. What a way to start my day…

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