How helping others helps you

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Maj.) Jeff Granger
  • 65th Air Base Wing Chapel
So, there I was driving a 15-passenger van full of technical training students from San Antonio, Texas, to Joplin, Mo., on Fourth of July weekend, 2011. We were on a mission to help clean up after some devastating tornados struck the Missouri city. Although we were on a mission to serve and help others, we were unaware of some profound blessings about to be bestowed upon us.

This chapel-sponsored program was not just a chance for these Phase I students to serve, but also their ticket off base for a few days.

No road trip would be worth mentioning if it didn't have some mechanical trouble, and our trouble came just two hours away from our destination in a remote part of northeastern Oklahoma. Stranded in a small town, I prayed and scrambled to see what we could do for back-up transportation.

After a couple inquiries with some local shop owners, a man showed up at the service station and asked, "I hear you guys need to get to Joplin?"

I replied, "Well, actually, we need to get to the church we're staying at in Springfield (Mo.), then to and from Joplin and Springfield all weekend."

He responded, "I was going to offer to drive you there in our church van, but in that case, here are the keys. Bring it back when you're done next week."

I was blown away by his generosity and the answered prayer; it was such an unexpected and undeserved blessing.

We stopped in Joplin to get dinner on our way to the Springfield church. After dinner, we drove to see the damage. It was incredible to see how one city block looked virtually untouched and the next was destroyed.

Early the next morning, we returned to the disaster area to get an assignment from a non-profit organization coordinating help from church groups. We were given lists with addresses and descriptions of work to be done. Our first assignment was a house that had to be completely gutted; the tornado spared the structure, but tore the roof off. A rainy week followed the tornado's damage, destroying the house's interior. Like the difference in city blocks, this very house was a reminder of how the storm's wrath could be terrible one place, but leave a small glimmer of hope behind.

While out to a hard-earned lunch at a deli, our luck went south for a moment. Shortly after our food was served, the manager came over because my credit card had been denied for a fraud alert, possibly because I was racking up so many bills for supplies and tools.

Almost immediately, a woman recognizing our Airman Battle Uniforms came over to thank us for coming to help. With that, the manager said, "You know, don't worry about this. I'll mark this down as a donation."

These new Airmen were struck by this and many other expressions of thanks. They didn't feel that they had earned such gratitude, but even their mere presence to help was appreciated. The Airmen found the three-day service trip more fulfilling for themselves than what they felt they were able to offer to others.

We often hear it said that those who give selflessly receive more than those whom they help. This is not a trite statement. Research demonstrates that this is, in fact, true. In a study of cancer patients who received regular phone support, the measurable benefits of that support were more substantial for those giving the support than for those receiving the support.

It truly is more blessed to give than to receive. As Airmen, we do this every day as we serve our country. We do this when we work on service projects. We do this when we take time to give physical, emotional and spiritual support to one another. We are blessed when we are a blessing to others.