My wife was the first person to tell me about Captain Tom, a man in the UK nearing his 100th birthday who was walking across his small garden day after day to raise money for the NHS. At that time, things in the New York area, where we live, were at their worst.
I remember the disturbing sights of that time. What was odd about them was I’d just catch a glimpse of what was happening. I would wonder if what I saw was what I thought it was. I seemed to see more hearses than I used to, but then who could be sure? I saw a large trailer outside a medical facility in Greenwich Village…was that one of the trailers that held bodies?
Other things were less equivocal. I saw a white panel truck pull up in front of a funeral home in Lower Manhattan. They had evidently run out of hearses. And an ambulance seemed to pass our building almost every minute.
I asked my wife if she had ever heard so many sirens. Was I just imagining things? She agreed she’d never heard so many at once. This made me realize I wasn’t imagining. I don’t know if that made it better or worse.
At this time, I felt helpless to stop the catastrophe surrounding me, as I’m sure many did. But Captain Tom’s example from afar cheered me. Of all people, who would be in a worse position to help than someone who is 99 years old and frail? But he determinedly crossed his garden back and forth, unconcerned with whatever limitations he might face. He just kept moving. I think he gave a lot of us the courage to keep moving to.
And bit by bit, his seemingly small act made a huge impact. He raised 33 million pounds ($45 million) for the NHS, perhaps saving many lives.
At 99 years old, one would think he had already given all he had to give. He had served his country in World War Two and raised a wonderful family. Who would’ve thought that his greatest achievement was still ahead of him?
When he started his walk, Captain Sir Tom was still recovering from serious injuries from a fall that included a punctured lung! But he saw what he could do, not what he couldn’t, and set about doing it for the good of others. And if someone could accomplish so much at age 99, imagine what we could do as well!
Captain Sir Tom Moore showed me what one human being can do, even in the face of the worst things. He showed me that people cannot be stopped; that the human spirit can triumph over anything, if we try.
It’s a shame to lose him, but he was here when we needed him most.
Captain Sir Tom, we’ll miss you!