At the beginning of the Iraq war Floyd Lee, a retired Marine Corp and Army cook, took charge of the Pegasus mess hall near the Baghdad Airport. And although the mess hall served up the regular 21-day army menu, receiving the same shipments of food as the other mess halls, soldiers were known to skip out on their assigned mess halls in order to visit Pegasus.
Why would these soldiers risk their lives, to walk several miles on one of the most dangerous roads just to have a meal at the Pegasus mess hall?
Maybe because Floyd Lee believed that he had a greater mission than just serving food… He was in charge of morale. Floyd realized that eating a meal was sometimes the only thing a soldier had to look forward to, so he decided to make that meal, and the dining experience at the Pegasus, greater than expected. And he inspired his staff to do the same.
The plain, white walls were covered with sport banners. Plastic tables were draped with table cloths that complimented the gold window coverings. Softer bulbs took the place of the harsh lights, ceiling fans were added for a nice breeze and food servers dressed their parts complete with tall white hats.
Meanwhile, the cooks in the kitchen looked for ways to ramp up the flavor in the meals they prepared. With some extra planning in advance, prime rib was marinated for two full days before it was cooked. Fruit, unworthy of being displayed on the fruit platter, was removed before the better fruit was arranged in beautiful displays. Dessert options were plentiful featuring: sundaes, smoothies and several different kinds of pie and cake.
And here’s something fun: Each day two pitchers of iced tea were served. One pitcher was labeled “Texas Sweet Tea”, the other pitcher was labeled “Carolina Sweet Tea.” Although both pitchers were filled with the same kind of tea, the friendly bantering as to which was the best just added to the daily festivities at the Pegasus mess hall. One soldier said that when they were at the Pegasus, they forgot they were in Iraq.
Isn’t it amazing what a little extra care, effort and planning can do!
My mother-in-law lives in an assisted living facility not far from where I live in Henderson, NV. The facility is owned by a woman named Marsha Jeffries. Although the purpose of Marsha’s business as an Assisted Living facility is to provide elderly people with assistance in their daily living activities, Marsha’s care goes much beyond just physical needs.
Realizing that life is much more than food, clothing and shelter she, and her staff, invent ways of bringing cheer to the residents of the home, giving them greater meaning and enjoyment in life.
One evening, when I was in the group living room, Marsha went into the dining room with a basket containing an assortment of candy bars. Quizzing the residents on their favorite candies, she made her rounds, reaching into her basket and bringing out candy bars for everyone.
Late one Thanksgiving afternoon, Marsha stopped by with some pies for the residents to enjoy, wanting to make sure that anyone who hadn’t gone to a loved one’s home for the holiday would get to enjoy a special treat.
I’ve even seen Marsha laying on the floor and singing to a resident who had fallen while they waited for the medics to arrive.
Staff members also contribute to Marsha’s greater mission in their own unique ways. Susan, the cook, makes inquiries with the residents so she can prepare a special meal for them on their birthday. Kristen, another staff member, uses her talents as a former hair dresser to assist residents in getting ready for the day… complete with buns, twists and braids.
When two staff members were expecting babies, a baby shower was held in the home. One by one, residents were taken aside to choose from a wide assortment of baby gifts that they would like to give to the expectant mothers, and were then assisted with wrapping their chosen gift. Each resident could then enjoy the festivities, complete with showering gifts of their own on the new mothers.
For Marsha, it’s more than just assisting the elderly with living activities. She has a greater mission. Floyd and Marsha both provide examples of bringing beauty and meaning to the lives of others.
What about you? How do you handle your daily activities? Do you serve food and perform activities of assisted living? Or are these tasks being performed while you are performing a greater mission? Are you in charge of morale? Are you bringing greater meaning to the lives of those in your charge?
While you may not run a mess hall or an assisted living facility, you have an incredible opportunity to make your home a beautiful and nurturing environment for your family. You have your own creativity that you can use to add beauty to the lives of others.
You can use your talents, whether they be in the areas of music, cooking, baking, decorating, writing, artistic arranging, painting, design, gardening, sewing, textiles, hospitality, wood work, drama and more to bring greater value to the lives of your family. Exercising your own talents, and being on the lookout for opportunities to encourage your family members to develop and exercise their talents will bring beauty to the lives of all.
The best way to get started, is just to start. Start right now, with what you have. Don’t wait until everything is just right, until you have a studio or a better instrument. Don’t wait until you have more money or until you have the perfect setting or the best of tools or equipment. Don’t wait until you’re more practiced or have studied further, or have taken a course. Just start now.
Maybe you start by making a flower bed or a rock garden. Maybe you create a fresh floral arrangement for the table. Maybe you bake a batch of cookies, or whittle a piece of wood. Maybe you paint and decorate a wall. Maybe you write a verse, or recite poetry. Do something today to add some joy and pleasure to your life. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. You don’t have to forsake your responsibilities, not should you, to add touches of your talent to the everyday tasks that already fill your day.
Taking the opportunity to give an outlet to your talents can bring greater fulfillment to you as you go about your day. It brightens up the mundane and creates beauty. It brings fulfillment to you and can lift your spirits. And by doing these things for yourself, you also bring beauty, inspiration, a break from the mundane and a lift to the lives of those around you.