After years of letting his congregation believe he'd once been a Navy SEAL, a Pennsylvania pastor's tale has come undone.My reaction was sympathy tinged with humor. For the better part of the past 24 hours, my initial response has been to laugh at someone stupid and short-sighted enough to believe that such a tall-tale could ever last.
Last week, The Patriot-News newspaper, based in Harrisburg, reached out to former SEALs living in midstate Pennsylvania, hoping for some local perspective on the U.S. commando operation that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Rev. Jim Moats, of Newville, obliged, and was featured in a story that ran in Saturday's edition. But it turns out Moats was never a SEAL, and the guilt-ridden pastor went to the paper's office on Sunday to fess up.
"I never was in a class, I never served as an actual SEAL. It was my dream," Moats, 59, who did serve in the Navy from 1970 to 1974, told the paper. "I don't even know if I would have met the qualifications. I never knew what the qualifications were."
Now, however, I am starting to sympathize with the guy. Not because I used to tell people I was a Navy SEAL, or anything else so ridiculous. I am sympathizing with him because here is a man who, for whatever reasons, was obviously unhappy with his life. Who of us is not? Which person does not have regrets, looks back and wishes this or that or the other thing could be done, or worse, undone? The Rev. Moats obviously desired to be a SEAL, managed to find a piece of SEALiana, and let others believe what they would without ever disabusing them of the idea. Because, apparently, it made him feel . . . what? Successful? Better?
I have to ask, though, what was missing in his life now that would lead him to this series of decisions and choices? He is a father, a pastor of a church, a Navy veteran honorably discharged after four years of service. These are all commendable, accomplishments to be celebrated. While he may feel like he "missed out" on something by not, at the very least, attempting to become a SEAL, why regret it?
Lisa will tell anyone who listens that my biggest gripe and complaint in life is that the stuff I do here on this blog isn't something I do for pay. The time I put in, the effort, the sense of accomplishment when I write something of which I am particularly proud is tinged with frustration at the fact that I am not remunerated, let alone recognized, for it. When I make these complaints, I also come around to the fact that I do this because I love it, because I want to, because I can, and not to do it would be a little like not being me. So what if I'm not on Meet the Press or published in The Washington Post? The guests the former show has on are usually really bad, and the latter publishes Charles Krauthammer. Enough said, I think.
So, I sympathize. All the same, one should take a certain amount of pride in the simple pleasures and daily accomplishments in life - raising a family, being a spouse, keeping a job. These are, by and large, not heroic activities but certainly important at keeping the fabric of our society from fraying.
If you have regrets, or wish to fulfill some cheap fantasies, don't make up stories about yourself. Write novels. Who knows, you might even make money at it.