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Dear Reader

I compose and post these articles with only one desire in my heart: to praise God and to offer modest help on your spiritual journey.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Manager

Joseph L. entered the pub, went to the bar directly and asked the young man for a Samuel Adams. The young bartender looked at him as if he were studying him for a few seconds then he hurried to help him. Decidedly, he knew the man, his picture had been in the local newspapers. He had received recently the purple heart for heroism in the Iraq war. Seeing the man had only one hand, the bartender wanted to help him with the beer to a table, but he quickly changed his mind, realizing that Joseph L. may feel offended. Instead, he looked at him with admiration and said that the house will be honored if he accepted a free meal and beverage. There weren't many patrons at that time in the bar, but the regular crowd was coming in slowly. Joseph L. ate and drank without paying any attention to what was happening around him, his mind was somewhere else. Gradually, the intense sadness that was devouring mercilessly his heart became tears trickling down his face onto the plate in front of him. Memories were avalanching his head. He had worked so hard to support himself and to go to college, his parents had died when he was young. The aunt that had raised him had also past before his 16th birthday. In college, he had met Cristina, a beautiful young lady. The professor had asked them to work together on a Christmas project. They fell madly in love with each other and after college they married. The first year of their marriage they had a little girl whom they lovingly called Josephina Christina. They were so happy. Joseph L. had managed with his savings to buy an apartment in a good neighborhood. Recession came though and Joseph L was laid off and in spite of his extensive search, he couldn't find any job. So, he enlisted in the army to be able to provide for his dearest wife and child. Sent to Iraq, he quickly affirmed himself as a courageous smart man, "as a very good leader, a man of great initiative and one who made wise decisions," these were the words his superior officer had written when recommending him for promotion to sergeant. The soldiers he led, although all almost the same age as him, were to call him "Papa J.L." They all felt his goodness of heart, emanating from not only his large brown, beautiful eyes, but also through his whole personality, permeating his every deed and word. They liked him also for his determination and clarity in decisions and actions. They repeated together with him his motto every morning "When we joke, we joke, when we work, we work, when we fight, we're American soldiers, to the death, we fight!" Everything had been fine until that day when he had been sent with another 5 soldiers in a reconnaissance mission. Everything was quiet, they had proceeded slowly, very carefully. Suddenly when they got closer to the forest, a group of some ten Taliban fighters emerged quickly like lightning striking massively on them. He had ordered his soldiers, he thought, intensely reliving the moment, to take safe positions and call for reinforcements. He and his soldiers had cut down a lot of Taliban until a bullet pierced his left arm and he had fainted when the reinforcements arrived, they found him down, his arm hanging on a piece of skin, the bone severed, crushed. He had lost a lot of blood and he was motionless. There followed many hospital days and when he finally felt better, he asked to be sent back to combat. It hadn't worked out as he was flying home. All he could think about was Cristina and his child. What will Christina say, he asked himself endlessly, when she will see him mutilated? She used to be so proud of his super looks. Jokingly, somewhat seriously, she used to call him at times "Adonis." Will his daughter be proud of his military achievement, the purple heart?
Trembling with emotion, he had stood yesterday in front of his apartment door, until the old couple living there now had opened the door and informed him the apartment belonged to them now. His wife Cristina had left him for a Canadian man and she wanted them to tell him not to look for her. The shock had been so huge for him that he had to hang on to the bannister to not fall. Fortunately, the old couple had been nice to him, they had offered him a bed and food, but he couldn't put anything in his mouth. "Life is crap," he thought.
Now, taking another sip from his beer, he said to himself "There is no happiness, life doesn't make any sense!" Suddenly the noise from the pub subsided, he raised his head and saw a priest who had entered the pub and was asking the bartender for some donation for Christmas gifts for the poor. "Christmas was here?' he asked himself then, staring with his teary eyes at the clergyman, who was also looking at him, he stood up on impulse and with finger pointing to the ceiling, he uttered loudly "maybe there is a God, maybe there isn't". The clergyman looking at him with warm eyes said loudly "God wants to meet you in the Church tonight at 6!" Joseph L was sternly determined not to go, but to his surprise, at 6 in the evening he was walking up and down in front of the church, undecided on whether to enter. When he finally entered the church he heard the beautiful, soothing tone of Christmas carols and saw the manger. He didn't sit down in a pew, but moved by the scene, he listened and watched everything from behind the massive column. He began to remember how, when he was three years old, he had stood in front of this manger between his mom and dad. Mom had pointed to the baby lying on the straw and had said "See little Joseph, that's Jesus, the savior of the world, he is the son of God who came to bring peace, consolation, and hope to all people, especially to those who hurt. "Those who hurt..."   repeated Joseph L and tears began to stream down his face. At that time his father had pulled out a small, nicely wrapped package from his bag and kissing him, had said "here little Joseph, your Christmas gift, but the real gift, little Joseph, he added, is baby Jesus' love for you". With great delight in his soul, Joseph L. remembered how he had opened the gift. There was candy and toys in it, he had asked his parents if he can give some of them to baby Jesus and they had agreed. What a beautiful moment, he thought. Suddenly, his eyes became foggy, he felt his legs giving up, a sharp pain struck his heart. He tried to hang on to the column with his right hand, but he couldn't, it slipped and he fell noisily. The people gathered in the church waiting for the 6 o clock mass, rushed to see what had happened. Someone called the ambulance. The priest was also notified and came and gave him the last rites. They all looked at Joseph L. His face contorted, all present heard him saying "What a beautiful gift, mom and dad. You were so right about the child Jesus!" Then his body relaxed and his arm fell down at his side and his head turned to the right. He was motionless. When the paramedic arrived, he said "He's gone." "I suspect cardiac arrest; the coroner will tell us more". The priest said to all present "Like a good soldier, he was punctual for his appointment with God!"

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