Compassion, Respect, and Honor Transcend Political Vitriol
Blog Post by District Director Julie Scott Emmons
Photos. Tours. Meetings. Media Hits. Award Presentations. Catching up on texts and phone calls in the car…..
Monday, July 22 was just another day in the life of U.S. Congressman Mark Walker and his staff. Our team knew it would be a busy day, so we were ready. The schedule had been reviewed multiple times, travel arrangements were made, and notes prepared. My gas tank was full because I’d drive over 200 miles before the sunset.
Everything was going as planned until a text arrived from Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson. He let us know that a Vietnam Veteran who we were scheduled to meet at his office had been placed on Hospice care over the weekend. The veteran had always wanted to meet the Congressman. Would we come to his home?
There was no hesitation in Mark’s answer. “Of course”. So I found myself with a Congressman in the front seat and a Sheriff in the back, driving country roads far into Southern Alamance County. We arrived at a small, well-cared for home at the end of an unpaved road. Mr. Danny Raby’s family warmly greeted us in the front yard and led us into the sacred space that surrounds a person in their last days.
Congressman Walker seamlessly transitioned into this space, as his years in ministry meant many visits in similar situations. He immediately went to Mr. Raby, and this veteran who hadn’t talked all day, suddenly perked up when a suit-clad Congressman showed up by his bedside.
Danny Raby answered our nation’s call to service during the Vietnam War. He’d never left Southern Alamance until he found himself halfway around the world, fighting a very real enemy in an unpopular war. They told him that Agent Orange wouldn’t hurt him. It did, and his cancer-stricken body has had enough. Mr. Raby settled back home—with a bride he met in Germany—and the good life they built was evident in the multiple generations gathered around.
The Congressman and the veteran talked about family, faith, and fishing. Stories were told, as Mr. Raby and the Sheriff are lifelong friends, and you know the stories that come from those tight bonds. They even shared a few laughs. Congressman Walker asked if he could say a prayer. He knelt beside his new friend, offered thanks for his life, and prayed God’s peace and comfort and blessings in the coming days.
The Congressman stood, saluted the hero, and said goodbye.
As we drove to our next stop—which was an appearance on CNN—I couldn’t help but ponder the fact that while public service is a noble calling, we must be very intentional to keep it from being obscured by the tone of the day.
It’s no secret that the world of politics can often be defined by self-promotion, harsh criticism, and cutthroat maneuvers. This is the world in which we are called to serve—and the current vitriol is of historic proportion.
This visit to a dying veteran reminded me that what we do is much more than sound bites, debates, bills, and texts. Those things faded in that small room, and the true power of compassion, respect, and honor was distinctly evident and real. These are the things that will rise above the rhetoric that marks our time. Just a few hours after this visit, Congressman Walker was on CNN calling everyone to do some soul-searching and think about the tone and spirit we use to articulate our beliefs. May we all look for ways to bridge the divide and remember that no matter what we are called to do, every single day brings an opportunity to show compassion and give grace to someone in need.