Skip to main content

Ten Minutes

| November 22, 2005

by Jim Bruce

As all of your know by now, I read a lot from a lot of sources.
Yesterday, a newsletter called Marketplace Moments written by a friend,
Randy Kilgore, reached my desk.  It carries a story which I want to
“It’s December 17, 1941. The citizens of the town of North Platte,
Nebraska heard a rumor that a troop train carrying their sons and
daughters to war would be stopping at the depot in their town for about
ten minutes. They decided to meet it and load the soldiers up with food,
gifts and magazines for the long, lonely train ride to an uncertain
future. Likely they realized it would be the last time they ever saw
some of their loved ones alive.
“Well, the train arrived, all right, but not with Nebraska soldiers.
They were Kansans!
“(Cue awkward moment; townspeople standing around quietly with food
baskets in hand; soldiers peeking out the windows wondering what’s
happening.) One person must have started forward, because suddenly these
Nebraska farmers were greeting the Kansas soldiers like they were their
“Eight days later, on Christmas Day, North Platte started meeting every
troop train, every troop train, from 5:00 a.m. ’til well after midnight,
feeding lonely soldiers heading to places like Iwo Jima and Bastogne,
Normandy and Wake Island. In an era where everything was rationed,
people from all over Nebraska and even parts of Colorado traded in their
ration stamps for eggs and sugar and other staples so they could feed
these traveling troops for ten minutes each. They did it without ever
missing a train from December 25, 1941 to the last train served on
April 1, 1946, serving six million—read that again, SIX MILLION—
soldiers in the process. Their hospitality carried the name of the North
Platte Canteen to every corner of the world, making it probably the most
talked-about town in the history of the American soldier.
“Old soldiers cry when they talk about what those ten minutes meant to
them, what it still means to them.
“Especially in today’s world, life is defined more by ten-minute
encounters than ever before. The customer across the counter, the worker
chatting by the water cooler, the vendor stopping in to stock the shelf,
the driver in the car that just cut us off on our commute.
“What do people remember when they walk away from these ten-minute
encounters with us? How do we prepare our hearts to touch the lives of
people who pass by us so fast that the residue of our meeting only hits
them when they’re gone? What work will we do before they arrive that
makes those ten minutes useful, or in rare instances, even memorable? “
While no one of us is likely to be in an endeavor such as the North
Platte Canteen, Randy’s short essay has reminded me, and should remind
each of us, that when we do interact with one of our staff, with a
customer, with a friend, we should focus on that individual and the
moment at hand.
I trust that all of you will have a tremendous holiday with family and
friends.  Yesterday I spent the day with my youngest son and his family
visiting the Plimouth Plantation (a replica village of the original
Puritan settlement) and the Mayflower II (a replica of the original
ship).  These few hours served as a stark reminder of the hardship that
this band of men, women, and children endured to settle in this country.
Much of the freedom and liberty we have can be traced back to roots in
this colony on Massachusetts Bay.