Those who work to help people often have times when we wonder if we are really making a difference. It is often difficult to see how the time, energy and resources we spend seeking to improve the lives of others. It can be like a worker in a cramped corner of a factory putting a part on a ship and never seeing it sail. In his heart the worker knows the importance of the part he contributes to the ship but there are times he would like to see the ocean, feel the wind and know he had a hand in making the vessel seaworthy. Discouragement can come more easily as we wonder if what we do makes a difference or matters.
I find stories like that of Bohn Fawkes to be helpful. Lt. Col. Bohn E. Fawkes was an American hero. He was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and attended West High School and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Chemical Engineering and a Masters in Business Administration. At the University, he was a member of the ROTC and joined the Army Air Corps in 1942. Fawkes flew 25 bombing missions as B-17 co-pilot and pilot in the 379th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force.
His missions included two of the famous raids over Schweinfurt, Germany and a ditching in the English Channel from which his entire crew survived. After the war, Fawkes served as a B-29 instructor in the Pacific. His career was spotlighted in the book “Fall of Fortresses”. Fawkes retired from military service in 1962 and returned to civilian life to carve a career as a stock broker and became involved in his community, serving with his children’s school PTA, working with his church, and the Boy Scouts of America. His was the life of humble service that makes for great movies as the quiet hero whose flights helped win the world changing victory over Nazi Germany.
One of his most memorable flights may have been a mission where he flew over Kassel, Germany they were under heavy fire from Nazi anti-aircraft guns. The B-17’s gas tanks were hit but yet Bohn and his crew were still able to land safely. The following morning, Bohn asked for a German shell from his gas tank to keep as a souvenir to show everyone his good luck. He was told that not just one shell had been found in the gas tank but eleven shells had been removed and yet his gas tank never exploded.
Confused technicians opened the shells to find all but one empty of any explosive charge. The one that wasn’t empty contained a rolled piece of paper. A message had been written in Czech language and this message read “This is all we can do for you now”. It seems that an assembly line worker in occupied Czechoslovakia took it upon himself to do what he could to oppose Nazism by secretly disarming bombs he was forced to make. The unknown worker was not able to win the war on his own. He never knew the results of his efforts. However he did what he could where he was and made a huge difference, ‘doing what he could for now’.
As you serve your fellow-man be aware of the task. One may never be at a place where they think they can make a big difference. The task ahead may seem overwhelming. One may never know the results of one’s effort and effect on the lives of those one serves. However, if ‘you do all you can for now’ and trust God for the results, you can be at peace with your efforts as you press on.