Over the past few weeks, we have read all the stories that reflect the greatness of our 41st President. George H.W. Bush was indeed a founding father from the 20th century. He was a war hero, a patriot, and a quiet man of God. But it is the story that just came to light a few days ago that takes the cake. It was the story that the president never intended to get out.
Almost 20 years ago, Mr. Bush, at the age of 75, attended a concert. At the end of the concert, Compassion International made a brief presentation. They were looking to sign up men and women willing to sponsor a child from a third world country. Moved with compassion, President Bush raised his hand so he could receive a card.
Dr. Wess Stafford, President of Compassion International, said, “I could see the security people going, ‘Is this okay?'” Stafford spoke with security and it was decided that the president’s identity should be protected if he sponsored a child.
Stafford said, “They couldn’t use his full name, so they went with George Walker.”
Thus, the unlikely relationship between the former leader of the free world and a five-year old Filipino boy began.
For 20 years, the two exchanged dozens of letters. Stafford said, “George Bush had a sense of humor and a bit of an impish spirit. So I don’t think he could help himself, and he started slipping in little hints of who he was.”
Bush wrote about his dog Sadie and how she’s met a lot of “famous people.” He wrote about visiting the White House for Christmas. Bush regularly asked the boy about his school work. He even sent the boy a calculator and art supplies, which he personally bought at the local Walmart nearest his home in Houston. When “Timothy” (the young boy) reached adulthood – and Bush’s Compassion International responsibilities went away – he continued to bless Timothy with gifts and notes of encouragement. And he never sent a gift that he had not personally picked out.
When the president’s health began to fail, Stafford commissioned his secretary, while on a trip to the Philippines, to tell Timothy why he would no longer be receiving letters and gifts. She told him who his friend really was.
Timothy was overwhelmed. He had no idea that the man who basically saved his life was the President of the United States. But more impressively, the rest of the world did not know, either. Why is that? Because George H.W. Bush was far more concerned with blessing others than getting an iota of credit himself.
That is the definition of a great American. That is the definition of George Bush.