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An act of service, born of routine

By Christina Brown, NBC News

I'm not sure when I first heard the words "If you want to change the world, change the world around you," or who said them, but the message is one I haven't been able to forget. Change comes one step, one moment, one person at a time.

At 87 years old, Joe Jackson hasn't let age, the slow decay of his sight nor the typical aches and pains that accompany the senior years slow him down. Every Monday for the past 18 years--and I do mean EVERY Monday--you can find Jackson at the Covington Safeway grocery store in Kent, Washington, a suburb outside Seattle, picking up donated groceries with his friends. Then the group travels to Kent Lutheran Church and delivers the food so volunteers can prepare meals for the church's Monday supper.

                   
                  VIDEO: An act of service, born of routine

The diners on Monday evening typically aren't the same people who attend Sunday morning service. They're the community's homeless and working poor--or, in Shelly Gaub's case, who's on Social Security and says she doesn't make a lot of money, they come because, "It's nice to get away, to be able to talk." When I asked her if she knew from where her next meal might come, she simply replied, "God is always there to provide."

Jackson and Gaub have never met, and perhaps never will, but they're part of one another's weekly routine. To Gaub, Jackson is a faceless, nameless angel, just part of God's plan to help bring food to her table.

On May 12, 1968 in Vietnam, Jackson, like an angel, spread his wings and piloted his Air Force C-123 airplane to sweep down from the skies and rescue three soldiers stranded on a tarmac. They were under heavy gunfire in Kham Duc. Jackson flew nearly 300 combat missions in Vietnam, but a year after that courageous flight, President Lyndon B. Johnson, honored Jackson and presented him with the nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor.

Just like Shelly Gaub, it was an act of service born out of routine, but one that Jackson would change a person's life forever.

                    
President Lyndon B. Johnson congratulates Medal of Honor recipients at the White House on January 16, 1969. Lt. Col. Joe M. Jackson (second from the left of Johnson) and Major Stephen W. Pless (shaking hands with Johnson) were both natives of the same small town of Newnan, Georgia and were both being honored for air rescues in Vietnam.

 

                     
                           VIDEO: Medal of Honor recipient offers lifetime of service