I don’t know about you, but when I watch the scene in the movie Pearl Harbor where Jimmy Doolittle asks volunteers to step forward and the camera is at foot level and in unison 80 pair of feet take a step forward, well it just gives me shivers. Those eighty men were all leaders. Each one of them. I like the way Doolittle put it to them. Remember what he said? “The mission I am asking you to volunteer for is exceptionally dangerous. Take a look at the man beside you. It’s a good bet in the next six weeks you or he will be dead. Everyone brave enough to accept this step forward.” As one they all step forward. Stepping forward always makes you a leader. There’s a great book written about those eighty men. The book is titled The First Heroes, written by Craig Nelson. He traces what happens to each of the 16 B-25’s and discusses each man (80) in those planes. By stepping forward their lives were changed forever.
Just months before another scene of stepping forward played out in North Platte, NE. This town of 12,000 people turned out at the train station under the impression that the train stopping there that evening for a ten minute water and coal refuel was carrying North Platte boys to the war. They had brought cookies, sandwiches, coffee, and birthday cakes. It was the evening of December 17, 1941. When the train stopped the towns folk realized it wasn’t the Nebraska guys on the train, the men were from Kansas. That didn’t stop Rae Wilson. She stepped forward and said, “I’m not just going to stand here, these are our boys too!” So Rae Wilson stepped forward and shared what she had brought that evening with those on the train along with many others.
The next day a letter appeared in the North Platte Dispatch from Rae Wilson. She exhorted the town to start a canteen of sorts, greeting every train that came through town that stopped there. It was only a ten minute stop, but she exhorted the town to do what it could do. This post is too short to share with you all that happened after Rae Wilson stepped forward. But, Christmas Evening the people of North Platte met the first of thousands of troop trains that came through that small town of 12,000. They didn’t miss a train and in almost five years and served over six million GI’s. There were sixteen million that served in World War II, and over a third of them came through North Platte. It is said that guys would be in fox holes in the South Pacific would ask each other if they had been to North Platte. One would say to the other, “What I wouldn’t give for an egg salad sandwich from North Platte right now!” By the time it was in full swing, the North Platte Canteen involved 125 surrounding towns. Women’s groups from churches would take their turn meeting the trains that would come through North Platte. It was unbelievable. It really was a miracle. Bob Green has written a book titled, Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen. It’s worth the read. I told someone the other day that every guest services team in churches across the country should read that book. It is unbelievable what ten minutes of hospitality will do in a person’s life. It can change it forever. All because Rae Wilson stepped forward. What a leader she was!
Is it time for you to step forward? Is there a need that must be met? By you stepping forward to address that need will lead others in working with you to make a difference. Stepping forward always makes you a leader.
That’s this leader’s view anyway.
PS: I’m going to take the weekend off, so there won’t be another post here till Monday morning. Look forward to seeing you then.