USA Archive

Forever Joplin

Posted August 22, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

The sun peaked over the rolling hills to the east as I pounded the pavement on my early morning run in Joplin, Missouri. A cool, gentle breeze kissed my cheeks as birds sang out to encourage me to continue my trek.

I rounded a corner into a neighborhood just as a little old lady was bending to pick up the morning paper.

“You’re out early. Can’t say’s I blame you. Beautiful morning, ain’t it?”

I took that my cue to stop and strike up a conversation. Poor lady. She never saw it coming. Something had intrigued me since the tornado ripped through this town on May 22, 2011 and I needed to ask the local about it. Once I confirmed that she was born and raised there, I dove in.

“When the tornado hit and in its aftermath, what were you thinking about?”

“My friends, my family and neighbors who lost so much.”

“So the tornado did not strike your house?”

“Oh yes, they had to rebuild the whole backside of our house. And our barn was completely gone.”

I was astonished. “And yet, you were thinking about everyone else?”

Gertrude (Gerty) looked at me as if I’d just stepped out of an alien spaceship. “Why of course I did. Why on earth would I not?”

I went on to explain to her about the Road to Freedom Tour and how media, television, the movies and politicians have led us to believe Americans are not like that any more. That we don’t take care of our own. That the America I grew up in is gone forever.

A tear trickled down Gerty’s cheek as she gazed off into the past through the window of her soul. She took a long breath then said, “No one told Joplin. We’re a small town of good folks who love each other and our country. Right after the storm the biggest problem we faced was that we couldn’t find our loved ones, not because we were injured or missing. But we couldn’t confirm everyone was alright because we wouldn’t stay at home.We all insisted on going out  to help each other. Their homes were damaged, even destroyed and yet their first concern was for others. It took over a week for us to make sure everyone in the family was safe.

“That’s who we’ve always been and we’ll remain forever Joplin.”

I thanked her for taking the time to answer my question and jogged off. With each strike of my foot on the pavement, I clearly heard the sound of the Heartbeat of America with gratitude that once again I received confirmation that it is alive and well.

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Whatever It Takes

Posted March 5, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I crowded around the counter with a dozen other drivers at a local hangout. After ordering my dinner, Melanie the server told me she was leaving. My momentary sadness that she’d no longer bring me my Diet Pepsi without my asking for it was replaced by my natural curiosity about what her next adventure would be.

Between customers she explained that she has a masters degree but when her job was eliminated and she had little ones at home to feed, she began waiting tables and pouring up beer on tap for tips.

Her temporary measure lasted for two years but she’d finally landed a job back in her field: Education. Had she not told me, I would have never known she’d fallen on hard times. It never showed. Not once. She just brought my chips and salsa, laughed at my goofy jokes and was an all- around pleasant gal. 

Last year, between the Road to Freedom Tour and my trucking adventure, I spent a few months helping out at a Lifeway Christian Store. One of my coworkers also has a masters degree. And two children. And, because of some sort of strange illness, a suddenly legally blind husband. She’s a social worker licensed in another state. Unfortunately, she had to wait to get her license in her current state so she had to take a job earning minimum wage in a bookstore. It had to be agonizing, yet it never once showed. She was always pleasant, upbeat, and could always be found encouraging others. She decided that, whatever it takes, I’ll take care of my family.

America is full of individuals just like these two ladies. They are working at jobs they are grossly overqualified for, earning far less than they should be just to care for their families. America is like that right now but the spirit of our great nation is persevering. They don’t complain. They don’t put on a sad face. Americans just get up, walk to work if need be, sling hash or flip the burgers because the are doing whatever it takes to keep their lives afloat.

That’s the American spirit. We do whatever it takes to keep going. We dream. We pursue. Life happens. We do whatever it takes to meet the needs while keeping the dream alive. Melanie made drinks and served jalapeno poppers to unappreciative people. The social worker arranged trinkets on glass shelves and scanned items for purchase. The law school graduate who’s father broke his leg came back home and took a job driving a septic tank evacuation truck. The engineer climbed up in the cab of an eighteen wheeler, leaving his family for weeks at a time.

It’s the American way. We’ll do whatever it takes to not only survive, but to thrive. As long as there is a heartbeat, there is hope and the heartbeat of America is alive and well. 


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Omar’s Journey: Coming to America

Posted December 31, 2014 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

The young boy was frightened awake from his slumber on the dirt hut floor by gunfire in his village. The rebels had staged another early morning attack. They drove through shooting anything that moved. Amazing how civil war and bloodshed had become routine. He’d come to expect it and like other African boys, he’d quickly developed the skills needed to keep himself from being captured by the rebels. There was a premium price for young boys that could be brainwashed and taught to fight against the government.

The country Somelia and this young boy dreamed of a land he’d been told about by a missionary. It was called “Merica” and if he could just swim far enough to get there, he would be free.

Omar grew up in this tyranny, all the while dreaming of coming to America. One day, he got his chance. He and a few other of his twenty-seven siblings snuck out of village under the cover of darkness and made their way across two countries to a refugee camp. Seeing their scars from countless attacks, they US embassy officials finally granted them sponsorship to the US.

Omar took every job he could to earn money and send it home to free the rest of his family. Finally, he discovered he could become an over-the-road truck driver and make enough money for his entire family. He has been driving for six years and because of the opportunity he found in the United States, almost every one of his family members have made it to our country. His country. Omar is now proud to be an American citizen. 

Omar will viciously defend our great nation against anyone who speaks badly about it. He has lived through the worst of circumstances and clearly sees the blessing he has in America. He is the hardest worker I’ve ever seen behind the wheel of a truck. He is polite, respectful, diligent, and now quite successful. 

I sat and talked to Omar for quite some time. I drank in his enthusiasm.  It was my honor to meet this fellow patriot. He is a hero in his quiet sort of way. Even though he was born on foreign soil, this man is as patriotic as they come. He proves that the heartbeat of America is alive and well!



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Salute Our Veterans

Posted November 11, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Yesterday after church, I could not help but walk out in into the colors of autumn. Brilliant hues shown vibrant against a cobalt blue sky. The warm rays of a brilliant sun mixed with the nip in the air. It was a perfect fall day.


I meandered for hours though mounds of leaves, strolled down empty sidewalks of a sleepy town before making my way to the Veteran’s Memorial on Main Street. I waded through over 4,000 American flags neatly placed in rows on each side of the sidewalk. They blew in the autumn breeze honoring those who sacrificed their own hopes and dreams to fight battles to give me the freedom to enjoy a Sunday afternoon. 


Folks were already gathered for the Memorial Service that would soon be starting. I sat on the bleachers among elderly marines, soldiers, sailors, pilots and listened as they swapped stories of wars gone by.


Though they were all from different branches of the service, they shared a common bond that I knew I would never experience with them.

I could only look on with gratitude.

Seven color guards from the local police force, the Boy Scouts and army marched in and took their places at their respective flag poles. We stood as Old Glory was raised and our National Anthem was sang. 


Retired US Air Force Brigidere General Tedd Bishop shuffled to the microphone. His gait was unsteady but his voice was sure. No doubt from years of authority. He led us across battlefields in every part of the world. Heroes were remembered. Yes, in every war, we’ve kept score. 


General Bishop honored those who sat among us and choked when remembering those who fell by his side, paying the ultimate sacrifice. It was clear they were gone, but they would never be forgotten.

After the benediction and TAPS, I walked back into a rich autumn day. My heart was filled with gratitude as tears flowed down my face.  I thanked God that I live in the greatest country in the world. Every freedom I enjoy–and yes, take for granted–was purchased by the brave men and women who unselfishly take up arms against anyone who would threaten our nation.


Veterans, I salute you. I honor you. I thank you for keeping me safe. May God richly bless you and keep you on your special day… and always! 


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