There’s a time and a place to put biz aside, and simply tell a story. Here’s mine for today.
On this Memorial Day, please take a moment to read this tale about the most amazing 6 degrees of separation. When I heard it in 2008, I was speechless, and I went right home and wrote it down….check the link at the end for a news story I found about it, as well as this enclosed picture.
2008: I met a man who touched my heart. I went to get an oil change at the ‘ol drive through place. There’s a senior gentleman who works there, and it seems he’s been there forever. His name is Bing. He greeted me outside with his usual smile filled with politeness and professionalism and we struck up a conversation. I had just been thinking earlier that day about the importance of taking the time to listen to our elders, and I really enjoyed talking with Bing. I had pegged him for about 73, but turns out he’s 87, and has been working at the oil change place for 20 years, in his post-retirement career as Director of Operations at another company. Retirement was boring to Bing, so in 1991, he inquired about managing the oil change shop.
Bing went to take care of a customer, and when he came back, he sat down and said, “It’s a small world” and proceeded to tell me this story. He said a couple of years ago he had some business to do in North Wales, PA. He didn’t know the area very well, and asked a police officer for directions. Just then, he happened to look up and saw a sign hanging on a building with the last name “Cwienkala”. He was quite taken aback and commented to the officer that he needed to go. They parted, and Bing went into the building. There was a man there who greeted him, and Bing looked at him intensely and asked, “Is there any chance that you are related to an Oscar Cwienkala?” The man looked at him and said, “My uncle was Oscar, but he was killed in a plane crash in World War II.”. Bing took a deep breath, and said slowly and deliberately, “I know. I was his pilot.”
I was needless to say, speechless.
Bing was a second Lieutenant in the Air force and flew the B-24. They were in Italy and with 10 on board, Bing took off and lost three engines. He managed to crash land the plane and 4 men were lost. Oscar was one of them. As Bing was telling me this story, one tear escaped and fell down the side of his face, and it was the most heartfelt moment. The man in North Wales immediately called his father, who got on the phone with Bing. To this day, they have all become and remained friends, and Bing was able to give the brother a picture of the crew, along with some of the memories that were lost so long ago. After I composed myself, I remarked about what an amazing story that was, and commented that if the name had been “Smith”, this probably would never have happened. I shook Bing’s hand and profoundly thanked him for sharing his story with me.
Everyone has a story. We need to take the time to listen.
<Afternote, with the power of Facebook, I’ve just learned that Bing is alive and well on this Memorial Day, 2012. Here’s to you Bing!!>
Wonder if the Veteran’s History Project knows Bing’s story……hhmmmm…..