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Carlton Senior Living Blog | May 20, 2016 | By Jonita Dixon

Resident Spotlight – Jim Helt

Jim-HeltLittle Jimmy was born in St. Paul, MN on March 3, 1940, living in the Midwest for 22 years.

Soon after graduating from Northern Iowa University,  I enlisted in the Officer Training Program of the US Air Force, becoming a Computer Officer.

I am a Viet Nam War vet.  During my tour many thoughts about war and its ramifications kept spinning through my head, making me think profoundly –  right/wrong, war/peace.

My work life was varied –  public accounting, military, Franciscan brother, Meals on Wheels coordinator, Assistant to the Chief Accountant at Providence Hospital.

Being a native Midwesterner my favorite foods include baked walleyed pike filets from Minnesota lakes, freshly picked garden vegetables – white corn, juicy tomatoes, crisp romaine lettuce, Muscatine seedless, red-ripened watermelon, and silky smooth, saffron gelato.

I highly value communicating with people, forming new, lasting friendships and talking eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart.  The face is where it all happens.  Wrinkles tell the stories of our lives.  All are beautiful from the deep red Betel-juiced teeth and lips of the widow in Viet Nam to the disfigured countenance of an outcast leper in Iran.

Traveling is my passion.  Meeting ordinary people native to a place, absorbing their culture, visiting their homes, witnessing their lives, communicating ideas, accepting generous hospitality, is my way to learn.  One of my most memorable trips was traveling for 11 months by myself through Europe, the Middle East, and Asia with only a backpack and sleeping bag.  I learned much about myself and the world.  What incredible stories! Another series of 4 trips brought me back to Viet Nam, for healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation for my time in the war.  The first trip was a spiritual journey with 6 other vets who had severe scars of war.  We created rituals at the sites where we had served – highly emotional, an attempt to heal.   We met with former enemies – VC and North Vietnamese – and ate meals prepared by our hosts, including fresh fish cooked in flaming straw bales, later singing – alternating a Vietnamese traditional song, then an American folk song – such camaraderie and laughter.  The Buddhist practice of forgiveness flowed with unbridled joy.  What a precious gift.

Jim’s Principle:  Smiling elicits bliss.