Do you feel loved? Does anyone in your life cherish you? Is there anyone who will do anything in their power to help and protect you? I hope so.
I’ve been lucky. There was no time in my life where I haven’t felt loved and cherished. I grew up in an Italian community where all were friends or family and all children were both loved and disciplined with certainty. On 6th street where I lived, there was our house, which was next to my grandmother’s house and two doors down from my uncle’s house and across the street from my cousins’ house. Next to my uncle was my best friend whose grandmother lived with his family. There were no fences, so our back yards were all connected. On most summer evening there would be a gathering on someone’s porch and we would talk about life, or politics or what Mrs. So and So wore to church on Sunday.
And then there was my dad. He was a Master Sargent in the Marines in WWII and was the most physically imposing person I have ever known – even to this day. I saw him grip a pair of pliers so hard that he snapped the handle. This ex-marine was one stubborn SOB. I once remarked to my aunt – his sister – how stubborn he was. She commented, “when you are as big and strong as your dad, you can afford to be stubborn. People learn to walk around him.”
My dad didn’t talk much about the war, but I know that he was on the Pacific island invasions and was twice wounded; once severely. He ended up in the hospital for 11 months with burns over 70% of his body.
I didn’t know how deeply my dad cared about me until the 1971 military draft lottery. Every year the draft board chose one day when they would throw all 366 days of the year in a glass rotary bucket and pull out the dates, one by one. They would draft based on when your birth date was picked. The lottery was held on August 5, 1971. I was already attending college and that year, I was taking summer courses. I didn’t have to wait long by the radio to learn my draft number. My birth date of July 24th was the fourth one called. If I wasn’t in college and had a deferment, I would be drafted. And, if the war wasn’t over when I graduated, I would be drafted. That evening my dad called. He never called, so I knew something was up. What he said during that call brings tears to my eyes even today. This hard, twice wounded ex-marine sergeant told me that no son of his was going to war. If I needed to go to Canada, he would help me.
I can’t explain how deeply I was touched. How loved, cherished and protected I felt. My dad's phone call and these emotions churned up for me today as I reflected on a quote I read this morning: “From the abundance of the universe, we have all received grace upon grace.”
I started pondering the idea of receiving grace upon grace. I began reflecting on the many graces I have received. And now I wonder – how am I being called to share that feeling of grace and love to those around me? If I have been blessed with grace upon grace, am I not called to show the same to others? How would my life change if I approached everyone with a sense of grace and love? Would the lives of those around me change If I treated them differently?
A Quaker friend of mine – George – is writing a book about five Quaker Spiritual Principles. The theme of one of his chapters has completely captivated me. The theme is to Live Radiantly. What would our world be like if we all decided to live radiantly each day?
I know what it is like to be so deeply loved that 45 years later, I remember the feelings from one phone call from a tough but tender hearted Marine Corps sergeant. If I lived radiantly, could I have that same impact on others? It is certainly worth a try.
Michael Soika has been a community activist for more than 30 years working on issues of social and economic justice. His work for justice is anchored by his spiritual formation first as a Catholic and now as a Quaker.