by Red Plana
I met Bill when he was the leader of the inbound Rotary Group Study Exchange team that came to my country, from District 7690 in North Carolina in March 2001. I was a member of the outbound team from District 3830 in the Philippines. We became good friends, this retired brigadier general and a small teacher who looked younger than the Asian professionals she was teaching.
Bill and I kept in touch through e-mail since then. He was like the grandfather I never had. He shared his war stories and freely expressed his love for God, country, and family. His wife and he were taking care of two grandchildren whose parents died in a car accident when they were still young, and Emily and Suzanna are two well-adjusted young ladies. I couldn’t help but grieve with him when his beautiful wife, Becca, died last year. I didn’t hear from him for a month.
Late last year, I was preparing my application to teach in Texas. Like many Filipinos, I look for teaching jobs overseas, so I can earn more money and send some back to my parents. Teachers are among the lowest paid professionals here in the Phillipines. However, I was frantic about coming up with the funds for the work visa and INS fees, especially since the peso-dollar exchange rate was going up.
I needed around a hundred dollars more to complete my application fees, and had nowhere to get it. My parents are retired government employees living on a pittance. Two of my siblings are serving their church and could not help. I had already scrounged and tried every possible source, and needed money urgently — I had to pay within a few days.
Late one night, I was about to leave my office when I decided to open some mail my mom had given me from our post office box. One was from Bill, and I guessed that he had sent me a Christmas card. By that time, he already had received my Christmas care package of a native woven shirt to keep him warm.
When I opened the card, I saw a folded piece of paper and my breath caught. I opened it, and there on the line were words that said that the check was for a hundred dollars. Tears streamed out of my eyes at this unexpected gift. In the card, Bill apologised for sending money instead of a gift since Becca usually helped him with those. He could not have known how much his gift would mean to me.
Bill sent exactly the right present at the moment I needed it most. He was there for his children and grandchildren, and he was there for me. Thank you so much Papa Bill!