The Wal-Mart stampede in Long Island, N.Y., last month exposed the ugliest side of the Christmas season. But not all Americans live by "The Blitz Line Starts Here" credo. Not all of us rush to store shelves in search of the greatest gifts. Sometimes, they can be discovered in the hearts and souls of total strangers. If only you look.
What an extraordinary treasure America was given in Dong Yun Yoon. The naturalized American from Korea lost his entire family in a San Diego military jet crash three weeks ago. The tragedy claimed the lives of his infant daughter, toddler daughter, wife and mother-in-law. It wrecked his house and upended his world.
But Mr. Yoon refused to blame the pilot or bash the military. At a press conference near the site of the crash, the grieving father and husband urged his fellow citizens to pray for the pilot: "He is one of our treasures for the country ... I don't blame him. I don't have any hard feelings. I know he did everything he could."
In an age of shoe-tossing temper tantrums, anti-troop bigotry and litigation gone wild, Mr. Yoon demonstrated both amazing grace and unbending patriotism in the face of unfathomable pain. His heart-wrenching plea for forgiveness resounded across the country -- and around the world. Five hundred people from both the civilian and military communities came to lift Mr. Yoon up at his family's memorial service. The assistant pastor of his church reported that they had received more than 1,000 phone calls and e-mail messages offering condolences and financial support.
Mr. Yoon's suffering and sacrifice are powerful reminders of the preciousness of life -- reminders that money can't buy.
Haleigh Poutre is another of those priceless gifts. She's the miracle child who was nearly beaten to death by her barbaric stepfather three years ago. Hooked to a ventilator in a comatose state, she was then nearly condemned to death by Massachusetts medical experts and the state's criminally negligent child welfare bureaucracy, which hastily declared her to be in a hopeless vegetative state and wanted to pull the plug on her life.
Haleigh the "vegetable" can now write her name, brush her own hair and feed herself. Haleigh's suffering and sacrifice carry powerful reminders against blind trust in the deadly duo of Big Nanny and Big Medicine -- reminders that money can't buy.
The life of Master Sgt. Anthony Davis gives us one more invaluable gift this year. On Thanksgiving weekend, his family learned that he had been killed while delivering humanitarian supplies in Biaj, Iraq. He had served in the army for 26 years. He loved his job and believed in his mission. The Baltimore native was married, and had five children and one grandchild. His wife and daughter also served in the military.
Sergeant Davis was killed while distributing water and food in Biaj, about 250 miles north of Baghdad. He died, his family said, doing what he loved. "He was Army in every sense of the word," Jorge Tardi, Sergeant Davis' brother-in-law, told the Baltimore Sun. "He believed in our effort over there in Iraq. It wasn't just a job. It wasn't just a benefit. It wasn't just hardship pay. He was a patriot."
Sergeant Davis was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, but what his family will remember most is commitment to them. He was a peacemaker, they said, and a mentor to all. "'A positive impact on somebody's life can change their life for the better,' That's a quote from him," his son Jerel said at his funeral. He "instilled in his children the importance of getting to know God."
Sergeant Davis's service sacrifice serves as a powerful reminder never to take for granted the cherished gifts of family, faith and freedom -- reminders that money can't buy.