Earlier today, a longtime conservative acquaintance asked me if I'd signed up for the Affordable Care Act. When reminded that I was a veteran and receive my primary health care from the V.A., he then asked why I care so much if other people had health insurance.
After all, what did it matter to me what happened to them so long as I had my OWN health care issues addressed?
I actually had to explain to him that it mattered to me if my fellow Americans were healthy. That they had access to health insurance. That I cared if they didn't go broke while fighting life-threatening situations.
I actually had to explain compassion to this grown man (and devout Catholic) who apparently had none.
Reflecting on it, it occurs to me it may well have been those two decades I spent in the service of my country which separates me from this non-veteran.
You see, I didn't join the military out of any high ideals. It was the mid-1970s - not a real popular time to wear a uniform - and I was a teen-ager with limited employment options.
But 20 years on I realize it drummed a sense of service to my country into me somehow. An ability to put service above self when called for. An awareness that there is more to life than what you get out of it personally.
That is something I will probably never communicate to people like my good Catholic conservative. And something he is likely ill-equipped to understand.