Two sticks of gum.
That’s all Royal Air Force Pilot Gail Halvorsen had in his pocket as he stood facing a sea of children through the chain-link fence separating East and West Berlin.
Stalin’s tight grip on East Berlin during World War II left its citizens starving and poor and the young pilot was part of a team that dropped food rations over this city in crisis. Still, he wanted to do more.
He broke the two sticks of gum in half and pushed them through the fence to the children. The gum was gone instantly, but the kids tore the wrappers into little pieces and passed them around to share the experience. The children with wrappers inhaled the gum scent and seemed elated.
That broke Gail’s heart. These kids literally had nothing. He decided he had to do more. He told the kids to be in the same place the next day and to watch for the plane that wiggled its wings.
The following day, as he flew over the fence, the kids were gathered once again. He gave the wings a little wiggle and then dropped parachute candies (his own personal ration from the RAF) down into the crowd. The kids went wild.
Gail enlisted the help of his teammates, and they all donated their candy rations to drop for the kids. Three times they did this, and then Gail was called in for reprimand from his superior officer. He was sent then to an even higher officer to await his punishment. He could have been court-martialed, but instead he was given the green-light and the story of his kindness reached all the way across the pond. Candy started pouring in from the States (Hershey being one of the largest benefactors) and Halvorsen’s operation became a symbol of goodwill and hope for the people of East Berlin, earning him the nickname “The Candy Bomber”.
Sixty-four years later, the children (now in their sixties and seventies) met with Gail Halvorsen and thanked him for being a beacon of light during an otherwise dark time in the history of their country. The words “I love you” from a seventy year old man to a ninety-two year old retired pilot will bring a tear to anyone’s eye. Those kids never forgot what started out as a simple prompting to take a step out in faith and show kindness.
Today Gail Halvorsen still flies. He does candy drops for events back in the States, and he still has that loving, adventurous, servant heart that made him famous back in the war.
This man’s life is an inspiration to me. It makes me ask the question: what small thing can I do to bless others? What could happen if I step out in kindness?
What are my two sticks of gum?