“A Closer Walk with a Vietnam Veteran”
They say, “rainy days and Mondays always get you down,” and that’s the way things were shaping up for Vietnam Veteran Leland Jones
Leland had spent most of the day at the Veterans Administration Clinic in Lynchburg and was told they would arrange for overnight accommodations for him at a local hotel so he could return the next day to continue his treatments. That evening, the bus dropped him off on Wards Rd., but he didn’t know which hotel he was supposed to go to, so he started walking.
He was hoping to find a home for the night at the local Comfort Inn & Suites after walking a mile or more in the rain. It was cold, dark and Leland’s physical resources were waning. He dragged his broken, wheeled suitcase behind him into the lobby and asked if there was a room for him.
His name was not in the computer, nor was there a reservation by the VA clinic. Leland didn’t have a credit card or any cash on him to be able to afford a room that night, either. His blood sugar was low, and he was cold and wet and a bit desperate.
During that time, the General Manager – a member of his local Gideon camp – was on the property because the phone system had gone down, and when Leland walked in, he was on hold with the local provider. Listening to Leland’s story, the GM told the front desk clerks to set him up for the night and handed over his own credit card to pay for the room. The staff at the Comfort Inn has a soft spot for our nation’s veterans.
After Leland was shown to his room, it was discovered that one of the front desk clerks, a 22 y/o college student, had used his own credit card to pay for the room, and not the General Manager’s. Inspired by the regular kindness and selflessness of the GM, this young man had taken the initiative saying, “Our GM does so much for us and other people, it was the least I could do.”
The next morning, the GM arrived at work before sunrise and wondered why his night auditor was wandering around the parking lot in the rain. The night auditor said, “I can’t find Leland.” He’d seen him walk out, but not walk back in. The hotel sits between a busy highway and a busy rail line, so the GM was quite concerned.
The GM went up to Leland’s room and knocked on the door and was very pleased to find Leland in his room. It was only 6:30 am, but Leland invited him in. He sat quietly on the chair which was just opposite Leland who was sitting on the bed. There was only the nightstand between them.
The GM shared how Jesus is the “Great Comforter”, and even though there was “no room at the inn” for Jesus when he was born, there had been room for Leland when he arrived at the Comfort Inn. He and his staff were happy to provide a comforting room in a time of need as well as supporting one who had served our country.
The manager pointed to the dresser and said, “Five years ago, someone left a gift for you here at the hotel. It’s in that drawer, and all you have to do is open the drawer.” Leland opened the drawer, and the light on the nightstand shone down on the gold-stamped cover of the Gideon Bible, causing it to glow.
The GM opened the front cover of the Bible and read the words printed in every Gideon copy: “Are you Alone, Depressed, Addicted, Stressed…? Do you need Hope, Peace, Joy…?
“That’s what I need – JOY!” Leland exclaimed as the Manager read the words. “Someone’s stolen all of my joy!” Leland shared how people had taken advantage of him, how the V.A. had been giving him the run-around, and he was not getting the help he needed. This had stolen the Joy from his life. The Manager told him he was convinced that Leland was at the right hotel. Leland relaxed and went back to bed for a few more hours.
The Manager made arrangements for the Maintenance Chief to drive Leland to the VA Clinic for his appointment later that day, and Leland was feeling much better. Arrangements were also made for Leland to stay another night in the hotel.
The next day, the Manager found Leland in the breakfast area, talking on his cell phone, arms flailing, emotions running high. When asked what was wrong, Leland told the Manager that in trying to make arrangements for his next appointment, he’d been transferred to the Suicide Prevention Hotline. Turns out, he had told them that he would need to run across the interstate to get to the bus stop. (But they heard him say he was going to run onto an interstate.) He also said he had taken all his medication for the day. (But all they heard that he had taken ALL his medication at once.) It took the manager fifteen minutes to convince the Suicide Prevention people that Leland was NOT suicidal and that they did NOT need to send an ambulance to take him to the psych ward.
The manager called his wife, a member of the Gideon Auxiliary, to come by the hotel and take Leland to the Salvation Army to meet with his representatives from the V.A., and to arrange for temporary lodging. The Salvation Army expressed their appreciation to the hotel for taking good care of Leland and “providing comfort” in his time of need. Later that day, Leland was transported to the V.A. Medical Center which is one hour west of Lynchburg in Salem, Virginia. He carried with him a fresh copy of a PWT and expressed his interest in coming back to Lynchburg to work for the hotel after he was finished with his treatments.
The staff at the Comfort Inn & Suites continued to pray for Leland and share his story. They even went to visit him in Salem at the VA Medical Center. Leland’s story is not finished, but God placed him in the path of a faithful Gideon who used a Gideon hotel bible to encourage and minster to Leland in his time of need.
The Comfort Inn & Suites of Lynchburg hosts a local Gideon camp for their Saturday morning prayer meetings. During each meeting, they pray for the hotel staff and guests. It is stories like Leland’s that show God answers those prayers.
Several months prior to Leland’s visit, this property received a $5,000 grant from Choice Hotels to build “Tiny Houses” for veterans at Providence Farm, a local, non-profit 501(C)3 organization which is dedicated to improving the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of veterans. They achieve this by providing free, nationally-acclaimed courses focused on trauma recovery, relationship strengthening, finances, and health. Their courses offer a unique blend of clinical insight, professional expertise, and Christian faith-based support.
www.comfortiscaring.com #TEAMCOMFORT #Comfortsaysthanks