Such servants deserve our respect for their steadfastness. To them I dedicate Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem "The Soldier":
|YES. Why do we áll, seeing of a soldier, bless him? bless|
|Our redcoats, our tars? Both these being, the greater part,|
|But frail clay, nay but foul clay. Here it is: the heart,|
|Since, proud, it calls the calling manly, gives a guess|
|That, hopes that, makesbelieve, the men must be no less;||5|
|It fancies, feigns, deems, dears the artist after his art;|
|And fain will find as sterling all as all is smart,|
|And scarlet wear the spirit of wár thére express.|
|Mark Christ our King. He knows war, served this soldiering through;|
|He of all can handle a rope best. There he bides in bliss||10|
|Now, and séeing somewhére some mán do all that man can do,|
|For love he leans forth, needs his neck must fall on, kiss,|
|And cry ‘O Christ-done deed! So God-made-flesh does too:|
|Were I come o’er again’ cries Christ ‘it should be this’.|
The yearning for a hero is universal and profound. When heroism takes flesh, ceasing to be a mere idea--when we witness heroism in a particular person--our hearts instinctively look upward, as if to make an act of faith in humanity and humanity's God.
Like Hopkins, my aptitude rested not in any of the above, but in service of an overtly religious sort. As a member of St. Clair's Junior Ambulance Corps in 8th grade, I gained particular respect for the fields of emergency medicine and firefighting. While many kids persevered in the Corps to the point of becoming an EMT, Paramedic, Nurse, and/or Firefighter, I left after gaining certification in Basic First Aid. But I got to remain involved in the lives of many of those good people by assisting in or officiating at their weddings, baptizing some of their children, and, alas, burying the spouse of one.
Praise God for the work of our "first responders"--for whoever responds expertly, promptly, and thoughtfully to someone in need. Such transactions are thoroughly incarnational, for God finds flesh in every player. As Our Lord has told us, these servants will be blessed to hear His consoling reminder at the end of days: You did it to Me.