11/11/11 — “Would You Like to Buy a Poppy?”

We moved to Scotland in 1995.  I had tried to learn what I could about Scotland before coming here, but there were things we just didn’t know.

Sixteen years ago, in early November, someone came to our door.  In our neighbourhood in Edinburgh, people didn’t come to the door very often, so this was a somewhat unusual event.  I went, and opened the door, and there was an older couple (definitely retired) at the door.  That was really an unusual event — if someone did come to the door, it was someone wanting to know if we needed our knives and scissors sharpened, or if we wanted a gardener to mow the lawn, or something like that.  A salesman or a workman, maybe, but not an older couple.

The lady was holding a box full of what looked like red plastic poppies, and she said, “We’re selling poppies for the Poppy Appeal.”  Not realising, yet, that “appeal” is basically equivalent to “charity” here in the UK, and never having heard of the Poppy Appeal, I said (rather cluelessly), “Plastic poppies?” and she said, “Yes, of course.”

I said, “Thank you, I don’t want any plastic poppies.”  (I’m wondering to myself why anyone wants plastic poppies, although she really does seem like a nice lady.)

She got a rather surprised look on her face, and said, “But you helped us win the war, I hoped you would help us again.”  Even more confused than ever, I said, “But I didn’t.  That wasn’t me.  But thank you.”

They turned away, and I closed the door.  When Terri asked who it was, I answered, totally bewildered, “A nice old lady selling plastic poppies.”


For those outside of Britain, meet the Poppy Appeal, raising funds for The Royal British Legion, supporting the service and ex-service community of the British forces and their families.  Absolutely EVERYONE in Britain knows about the Poppy Appeal.  NO ONE could possibly be so out of touch as to not know about it. 🙂

People make donations, and receive a poppy to wear on their lapel in return.  By doing so, they show support for the servicemen and their families, and encourage others to remember that the Poppy Appeal has started, and it is time to give.  At this time of year, you can’t walk through the town centre without seeing people wearing poppies everywhere.

But I didn’t have a clue, and that lady and her husband didn’t know that I didn’t have a clue.

I walked away from the door thinking she must be totally daft, and thinking it was outrageous that someone took advantage of a nice old lady to send her out to try to sell a bunch of plastic poppies.  I wondered why her husband went along with it, and thought he should have been protecting her more.

She walked away from the door undoubtedly thinking that I was a horrible person.  That new American in the neighbourhood doesn’t care about our servicemen!  He is so disconnected from his American roots that he said (about American help in the war), “That wasn’t me.  I didn’t help.”  How dare he?  He doesn’t care about either Britain or America!

They didn’t come to our door the next year.  I’ve always suspected he was a veteran of World War II, which was why she said what she did about American help in the war.  Two of my uncles served in that war, and one was killed.  By then, I knew, and I’d have purchased ten poppies if they had come back.  But the chance never came again, at least with that couple.

So just a few thoughts:

  1. Maybe that other person isn’t as crazy as you think.  Yes, I know what she said, she said she was selling poppies.  Plastic poppies.  Totally nuts — but maybe not….
  2. Maybe that other person isn’t as terrible as you think.  Yes, I know what he said, that he wouldn’t buy a poppy.  And I know the other things he said, too.  But just maybe, there might be more to this story you don’t know about….
  3. If you don’t go an extra mile to find out what this is about, your chance to buy poppies from this person may never come again.
  4. Always be alert for clues that someone didn’t completely understand, and if so, explain thoroughly.
  5. Be humble enough to always remember there is always a lot going on that you just don’t understand.  Never think you’ve got everything figured out.  You don’t, and more often than you like to think, you aren’t even close.

If you don’t have a poppy yet, it’s not too late.

John 15:13
Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
This entry was posted in Daily Christianity and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 11/11/11 — “Would You Like to Buy a Poppy?”

  1. Patrick Heeney says:

    Communication. Such a complex word. It requires more than just saying something plainly, it also requires being understood. How many a ruckus is started due to a lack plain speaking on one side, or a lack of understanding on the other. Or both!

  2. jackielahora says:

    well i guess if i were in the same situation, i’d have refused her plastic poppies too, without being able to completely grasp what’s really going on.

    i think we’re all ethnocentric in a way…

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Ethnocentric — yes, probably to some extent. I’m not sure it is always entirely bad, despite the negative connotations the word bears. The problem is mindless ethnocentrism, where I think my way is better without even really considering the merits / drawbacks of the alternatives. Ultimately, that comes down to that spiritual problem called pride, and pride usually also brings not only a feeling that my way is superior, but also produces negative judgments towards those who are different.

      My way may be superior, and those who do differently may be doing wrong or foolishly, so sometimes those judgments are not inappropriate. But they are only correct when based on sound and true principles, rather than a proud feeling of superiority.

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