FOR most people, retirement brings an opportunity to slow down and have a little more 'me' time. Lots of people enjoy the freedom of being able to go where they want, when they want - visiting friends or seeing the grandchildren. So it was for Peter and Phyllis Bowman of Blairsville, Georgia, who were touring in their Winnebago (motorhome) when their plans took a dramatic twist.
Peter and Phyllis were taking a long, leisurely trip to a Winnebago rally. They had stopped at a campground in Oelwein, Iowa, and had gone through the usual tasks of setting up their campsite. Neighbours had been greeted and the usual pleasantries exchanged, the fire built and the supper started. Phyllis decided to catch up on the news and turned on the television.
The lead news story was about floods in Iowa, not too far away from where they were staying. They looked at each other. They felt compassion for those who were losing so much so quickly. Phyllis told her husband they had to help. 'How? Where? Who?' was his reply. She looked at him and almost together they said, 'The Salvation Army.'
Waterloo was near so they headed in that direction and soon were busy making sandwiches by the hundred. A few days later they were on one of The Salvation Army's emergency canteens, passing out food to those in need.
As the floodwater receded in Waterloo they rose in Cedar Rapids and the Bowmans were on their way. They ended up serving several hundred meals a day in the devastated little community of Palo. Phyllis enjoyed talking to the people and Peter enjoyed keeping the truck, the tent and generator clean, neat and running perfectly.
The muddy, dirty, flood-ravaged streets of Cedar Rapids are a long way from the tree-covered hills and little towns of north-east Georgia. But the people are not so different.
Salvation Army officer Major Gerald O'Neil, who worked with Peter and Phylis, says, 'We were lucky ... no, we were blessed to have the Bowmans show up at our door.' Captain Mark Haslett echoes this praise with words of his own: 'I praise God that he sends us volunteers like the Bowmans.'
There are a lot of other people who would like to thank them as well. People who received a sandwich, a cookie and an apple when they were hungry. People who received a bottle of water when they were thirsty. People who received a smile, a handshake or a hug when they were exhausted. People who received a listening ear when they had a story they needed to tell.
Below: Peter and Phylis Bowman hard at work in a distribution centre