This is one of my favourite posts, from three years ago. I thought it would be good to run it again for Remembrance Day this year.
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:
- 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….
- 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….
- 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.
- Always be alert for clues that someone didn’t completely understand, and if so, explain thoroughly.
- 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.
Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends.
I remember as a girl poppies being sold for Veteran’s Day in Oregon. I don’t think they were plastic, but rather paper. Mom and Dad always purchased at least one, even though it was a time of great depression and 50 cents would purchase a pair of children’s shoes. I don’t know when the tradition stopped. One of those very good memories from the growing up years. Thanks for the reminders that sometimes we don’t know as much as we think we know! I’m so very grateful for all those who sacrificed – our veterans and those of our allies. God bless..
Hi, Mom. I’m pretty sure it stopped before I was born, I never remember seeing you and Dad by poppies. Although as a kid, I don’t know if I was particularly observant, so I might have missed others doing so.
We used to see poppies being sold in the USA, but I haven’t seen that in the 19 years I’ve lived in Iowa. The American Legion used to stand on street corners and in the center at intersections. I don’t think our children learn about any of this is school any more. I have been dismayed recently at the number of people I’ve talked to about the poem “In Flanders Fields” – none of them even heard of it, let alone know anything about WWI
Hi, Glenn. Either you are older than me or we grew up in different areas. 🙂
It would be hard to find people here who haven’t heard of the poem. We lost so many men in this country.
Yes, but the war affected the UK more than it did the USA. I’m sure your educational system insures that the children learn their history. In the USA, we have the liberals in charge of education, and they find it more important to teach self-esteem, sexual immorality, and all other things from the liberal ideology.
I suspect we could exchange horror stories about what kids are being taught all day. But yes, the war affected the UK much more. And the Great War affected Scotland more than England. Depending on which statistics you believe, the men lost constituted perhaps 2.5-3% of the entire population.
edit: I should probably add, I believe England’s losses were higher than Scotland’s in the Second World War.
This was a great post! Thank you for reposting it and for the gentle reminder that we must “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit; rather, in humility value others above ourselves,”
And for what it’s worth:
+ we have veterans that sell the red faux poppies outside the local grocery store;
+ I know the poem “In Flanders Fields” and our three children had learned of it whilst still in elementary school. But you’re right…. it’s not generally known as well over here in the USA.
Thank you, David.
But then, you say “whilst”, too, so you must be half British at least. 🙂