How a Homeless Army Vet Taught Me the Ultimate Content Lesson on Easter

  Photo by  Annie Spratt

Photo by Annie Spratt

"The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it."

- C.C. Scott

 

Coming up with a great story idea or content for a blog post ain't easy.

So when I'm desperate for inspiration, which is more times than not, I go to my usual sources. Doing Google searches on a particular topic, reading quotes from the content sages and visiting my favorite IPA emporium all have helped me become a bit more inspired.

But this past Easter, I was reminded of how such angst about content is so unnecessary thanks to a US Army Ranger veteran I met underneath the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge.

You see, I was with a group that cooks and serves for friends on the streets here in Portland every other month. Part of our service is socializing with these wonderful souls who are doing the best they can given their circumstances.

Enter Robert. This 40ish sturdy looking and articulate guy told me his story about serving as an Army Ranger in the first Gulf war. How he and his squad of four, on his last day of duty in the "desert," were being dropped into Kuwait to investigate a potential uprising by the enemy.

It was night, of course, and three of his brothers already stood on the ground after being gently dropped from the helicopter that carried them. Now just as Robert got onto the rope to join his fellow soldiers the aircraft came under enemy fire. Bullets whizzed by him and the pilot immediately started moving around to dodge the high-powered ammo coming their way.

As the rope violently swayed back and forth, Robert held on tightly for a few seconds but he carried a fully loaded pack and lost control of his grip landing violently on the ground 60 feet below. Upon impact, he blew out both his ankles and his legs buckled underneath him.

When he regained consciousness, he was lying on a bed in an US armed forces hospital in Germany. The doctors told him two things. First, he was lucky to be alive. Secondly, he would never walk again.

At that point during our conversation on Easter afternoon, Robert glanced away for a moment and then looked me straight in the eyes. He said he informed those surgeons, "That was not going to happen. No way." And then he continued to tell me about his 3 1/2 year odyssey of VA challenges, surgeries, rehabilitation, more surgeries and more rehabilitation.

But guess what? He's on his feet and walking again.

Without a cane.

Without a walker.

Without a limp.

Talk about steely resolve.

And then it really hit me. I finally got it.

That the greatest source of inspiration for content is all around us.

It's called humanity.

The stories of men and women who surround our everyday life serve as powerful reminders that nothing is more inspiring than the journeys so many of us are on.

Stories about life and death. Fortune and poverty. Health and sickness. Love and heartbreak.

So the next time you've hit a roadblock, whether it be for content or for life, let me make a suggestion.

Don't go to the usual places. Push yourself out of your comfort zone.  

Take a walk through downtown. Go the park. Serve a meal under a bridge.

And start a conversation with the people around you. Lean into a chat with someone who may be down on her luck. Engage with a fellow traveler who is nothing like you.

My bet is it will not only fuel your content. It may give you a new sense of appreciation for humanity.

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