Yesterday evening I returned to Effingham to bid farewell to a young man who tomorrow departs to begin his training in the United States Marine Corps.
He is, as you might expect, a fine fellow who taught me a simple lesson.
As he and his father walked me to my car as I prepared to return to Springfield, he thanked me again for coming, shook my hand and slipped a token of appreciation into my hand.
It has not been an uncommon experience for me, nor is it for many priests. People want to express their gratitude and they often do so with a small monetary gift.
When I felt the gift in my hand, I said, "You don't have to do that," which I meant.
The young marine looked at me and said, "You're supposed to take it, Father."
Taken a bit by surprise, I answered, "Oh, okay." No one had answered with those - or even similar words - before. As I accepted the gift, he said, "It's for your gas."
As I left Effingham I filled up my car, with gratitude for his kindness and for a simply lesson learned.
If you would, please offer a prayer this young marine.