In 1995 we counted our pennies, made careful plans, and headed to Washington, D.C., for a homeschool field trip. Our children were just the right ages to learn from the trip. Things went well, in spite of the government shutdown which closed many of the sites we were planning to see.
The shutdown turned out to have its own blessings. Senators and representatives were anxious to get the government going again. We got to see many well-known senators and representatives from our seats in the galleries because they were on the House and Senate floors instead of being off in their offices or in committee rooms.
One well-known senator we were happy to see was Bob Dole. Dole served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1961 to 1969 and in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1996. People of all political leanings can learn from the tenacity of this inspiring man.
Dole made news recently. While paying his respects to former President George H.W. Bush, as Bush lay in state at the U.S. Capitol in December, the 95-year-old Dole rose from his wheelchair to salute President Bush’s casket.
Kansan Bob Dole was a college athlete before he entered World War II. In mid-April 1945, just weeks before the war in Europe ended in May, Dole suffered severe spine and shoulder injuries from enemy fire. He spent 39 months in rehabilitation and endured seven surgeries.
After Dole was injured, he feared that, instead of going to medical school as he had hoped to do before the war, he would have to sell pencils on the street to make a living. The people in his hometown collected money in a cigar box to pay for his expenses while he recovered. That cigar box is one of Dole’s prize possessions.
Dole learned to walk again, but always with a limp. He learned to take care of himself again, but he has never been able to lift his right arm more than a few inches. His right hand is severely damaged and his left hand is partially numb. Throughout his decades in the U.S. Congress, he could not cut his own food. Simply getting dressed in the morning took almost an hour.
Dole’s doctor during his rehabilitation was an Armenian immigrant who had suffered terrible losses in World War I. In May of 2017, I shared this picture of Boston’s Armenian American Memorial. It honors one and half million Armenian residents of the former Ottoman Empire who died in a genocide there between 1915 and 1923.
The Armenian doctor treated Dole free of charge and he gave him more than free medical treatment. He gave him encouragement. The doctor told Dole: Don’t think about what you have lost. This Armenian doctor knew terrible loss, but he had learned how to live abundantly in spite of it. He taught Bob Dole to do the same.
Therefore encourage one another
and build up one another,
just as you also are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11