On the Corner

by Robert Docter – 

How would you like to go anywhere in the world and immediately feel at home? I’ve got a plan for you–join and be active in The Salvation Army.

George Church once taught our Sunday school a chorus I’d never heard before. He sang it in some rich, thick accent–maybe British–or Caribbean.

When you go to the Ahmy meeting you get fevah.
When you go to the Ahmy meeting you get fevah.
When you go to the Ahmy meeting you get fevah.
And from that fevah–you nevah –recovah!

I don’t know what it is about this “Army” culture, but it’s fevah has created value systems, relationship patterns, and acceptance behavior throughout the entire world. I know we’re not all that much alike in reality, but “being Army” seems to create a sense of belonging with anyone, anywhere who shares that orientation–who has caught that fevah.

I’ve just returned from some rather extensive international travels and have been involved with a large number of other visits to foreign locations at other times. Additionally, I have recently completed some wandering within the United States. At each location I got involved with the Army–met some of the people–participated in fellowship with them– attended services and spent considerable time just observing.

These are great people.

I’ve tried to assess my own feelings and figure out the common characteristics of those I met. I know in each situation I felt immediately comfortable. I think it came from a sense of being with people who shared my values. I felt secureat easeunthreatened. I didn’t know these people at all prior to meeting them. I suspect some of that feeling was generated by my own personality, but there have been many occasions in my life when I have not felt particularly comfortable around some strangers. With the Army folks, I felt accepted–and this caused me to feel joy in their presence. I was able to reveal myself more genuinely–able to disclose the real me without fear of rejection or judgment or unkind criticism. Moreover, this something in the chemistry of mutuality –this fevah— allowed them to be fully themselves with me. We seemed to have flown to a trust level far beyond that expected in the meeting of strangers.

No racial or ethnic or cultural variation could diminish, slow down or erase the pervading aura of camaraderie –respect –pleasure in each others’ company. Our differences in relation to these factors were ignored. It wasn’t that they receded. They simply were not present.

Neither economic nor educational achievement seemed to be considerations. The job someone held, or their status in life, or their role in the corps, or the degrees awarded, or the size of their house, or the braid on their shoulders seemed to be completely irrelevant in the relationship. The “Army” culture was so dominant as a “given” that factors such as these were completely inconsequential.

What were some of the factors that give meaning to this unique welding of differences?

Well, first there was a common spirit. Our uniforms, our witnessing, our warmth, our Christian love sent verbal and non-verbal messages about who we were–about what we believed–about not only being a Christian, but being Christ-like.

I discovered, too, we have a common language. I think it was Winston Churchill who once said something like: America and Great Britain are two great nations separated only by a common language. Certainly, we use words differently in different areas of the world. Some of that is actual language difference–some of it is dialect. But in the Army, the concepts mean the same thing regardless of how the word is pronounced. This gives us an affinity–a connection.

We also seem to share the same commitments. There is a sense of loyalty to a grand design that overpowers any competitive forces. This commitment also seems to be long term. People with the fevah aren’t in this for the short haul. They are stayers. For generations the contagion of the fevah spreads its aura of magnificence, floating like the breath of a rose through the membranes of our existence.

I’m also convinced that this commitment made delivers a sense of positive self worth that is unmatchable. It seems to me, that those who, for one reason or another, choose to leave the Army to go to a different church, invariably are pressed into leadership responsibilities very quickly. They have…something. It is discernible.

When you go to the Army meeting–you discover yourself in others and God in you.

I guess I’ve got that fevah. Have you?

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