Fred by the numbers
Fred was born on September 7, 1924.
He was 94 years old when he passed away on June 20.
Fred was married to his bride Josephine for 73 years.
Fred was a WWII veteran. His story is like so many others. Leaving a young bride behind he left to go serve his country. Wounded in battle Fred was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. When Fred was well enough to return to active duty, he was selected to be an armed guard to oversee Nazi war criminals during the trials held in Nuremberg, Germany.
Fred was like many men his age, there was a humility about him. You might never know of the realities of his experience, the trials he endured and overcame. Following our service today I was talking with someone who has been a friend for close to thirty years, a good friend, who said, “I never knew that Fred was at Nuremberg.”
Why would we? There was no need for Fred to post on FB, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram or some other social media platform about his exploits. He was simply doing what was expected of him, and doing it to the best of his ability. He, like many others, moved with a sense of humility, working for the common good, willing to sacrifice for others.
At the service there was a table which displayed Fred’s uniform, medals and other pictures which helped tell his story. Moments before the service I noticed a book of poems next to his uniform.
It was well worn. You could tell that this was a book that had been read.
As I waited for the hour of Fred’s service to come round I leafed through the poems. I came across one titled The Big Deeds. Reading it I thought of Fred. The poet’s words captured Fred’s heart, or maybe the poet’s words challenged a young Fred to be something bigger.
The Big Deeds
We are done with little thinking and we’re done with little deeds,
We are done with petty conduct and we’re done with narrow creeds;
We have grown to men and women, and we’ve noble work to do,
And today we are a people with a larger point of view.
In a big way we must labor, if our flag shall always fly,
In a big way some must suffer, in a big way some must die.
There must be no little dreaming in the visions that we see,
There must be no selfish planning in the joys that are to be;
We have set our faces eastward to the rising of the sun
That shall light a better nation, and there’s big work to be done.
And the petty souls and narrow, seeking only selfish gain,
Shall be vanquished by the toilers big enough to suffer pain.
It’s a big task we have taken; ‘tis for others we must fight.
We must see our duty clearly in a white and shining light;
We must quit our little circles where we’ve moved in little ways,
And work, as men and women, for the bigger, better days.
We must quit our selfish thinking and our narrow views and creeds,
And as people, big and splendid, we must do the bigger deeds.
Let the poet speak
The second time I read the poem I was struck by how much we all need these words today.
In a world that has grown increasingly tribal and narrow.
In a world where we define others by how they are different, where we fight to get ahead rather than help one another.
Maybe, just maybe the poet can once again help us “quit our selfish thinking and our narrow views and creeds, and as a people, big and splendid, do the bigger deeds.”
Abba Father, may it be!
“The Big Deeds” taken from Poems of Patriotism by Edgar A. Guest “The poet that all America reads and loves” Published by Rand McNally & Co., Chicago