Every year, a certain school’s eighth-grade class travels to Washington, D.C., for their class trip. They crowd together on the bus for the day long drive to visit important places in American history. One year, history came alive to them in a way that none of them could have guessed.
Early in the morning, before it was light, the excited students boarded the bus. When Luis got on, he was clutching a small pot with a white hyacinth. The creamy petals were in full bloom, releasing their sweet scent. A small American flag had been stuck in the soil.
Before long, everyone had either seen or smelled the fragrant flowers. Who were they for? What was he going to do with them? No matter how many times his classmates joked with him, all he would say was that he was on a mission. The class began to guess what he might do with them. “Maybe he wants to give them to the first lady when we visit the White House.”
The students watched as Luis carried the flowers with him on the White House tour. But when they boarded the bus, Luis still carried the flowers with him. “Maybe he is going to give them to the tour guide,” the girls decided. “She’s so pretty, he’s probably waiting for just the right time.” Wherever they went, everyone watched Luis closely to see what he would do. At lunch time, he set the flowers down just long enough to eat a sandwich and a bag of chips. Then he picked them up again.
Then the group went to the Arlington National Cemetery. Luis knelt down beside a pool and set the flowers down. “This is it!” the boys shouted. “He’s going to place the flowers by President John F. Kennedy’s grave!” Luis cupped his hands and dipped them in the pool to water the lovely hyacinth. The class continued on to the president’s grave, but still Luis held the potted flower. What was his mission? By now the students wouldn't let Luis out of their sight.
The bus drove back to Washington and dropped the students off at the Lincoln Memorial. Was this it? Could Abraham Lincoln be a historical hero to Luis? But no, Luis didn’t leave the flowers there.
As the class left the Lincoln Memorial it seemed as though Luis began to walk with a sense of urgency. The kids walked closely behind him, somehow knowing that Luis was getting close to his destination. Then Luis stopped at the wall of the Vietnam Memorial. In respectful silence his classmates watched as Luis scanned through many names, and then set the hyacinth down under a particular list of engraved names. He was so focused on his mission, he didn’t notice until he looked up that his entire class was watching in fascination.
Finally, someone asked Luis to tell the story. “My mother’s aunt is named Rosa. When she was young, she fell in love with Eduardo. He would always give her white hyacinths in the spring. He would order the bulbs from Holland and plant them in the fall. When they bloomed in the spring, he would dig them up, put them in a pot, and give them to her.
“In 1965 Eduardo was drafted into the Army. The following year he went to Vietnam, but he never came back. Through all the years since then, Aunt Rosa never forgot Eduardo. Every spring she would talk about those beautiful white hyacinths. So when I told her I was going to Washington, D.C., she asked me to bring this flower to him and place it under his name. I promised her I would. Mission accomplished.”
It was very quiet when the kids boarded the bus. Nobody kidded him about the flower anymore.
One definition of the word mission is to fulfill the promise you make, or to perform the duty that has been entrusted to you. Luis’s mission was to fulfill a solemn promise he had made to Aunt Rosa.
What is your mission?