I have always observed this day, but this year I had an experience while travelling that brought more to this day than I’d ever thought about before.
I was in LAX waiting for my flight home and decided to go to McDonald’s to grab a meal while I waited. I stood inline behind a tall gentleman, and in front of him was a grandfather in a wheelchair along with one of his grandchildren. They placed their order and when the cashier told him the cost, he started to fish through his garments for his wallet. Nothing out of the ordinary here.
Then I saw something that still makes me smile to this day. The tall gentleman leaned forward and gave the cashier the money for the bill.
“I’ve got this.”
The wheelchair-bound man looked up and was initially resistant. Then the tall gentleman asked him where he had served and the elder man told him. There was now what appeared to be a quiet understanding between them.
“I’m in the service myself, sir,” said the tall gentleman. “And I just wanted to thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made for our country.”
I was (quietly) blown away. I’d never seen a gesture like this in a long time, and never with that being the reason the gesture was extended. To be blunt, I don’t even think the fact that the elder gentleman being in a wheelchair made all that much of a difference. Someway, somehow, this man in front of me recognized that he was in the presence of another military man — a veteran — and he decided to show his gratitude by paying for his family’s meal.
So while I think about those who gave their lives for the freedom my family and I enjoy, I also think about that moment just as much. I think about those who are putting their lives on the line so that we can continue to enjoy this freedom of ours. On this day I remember all of that because I happened to see a random act of kindness while in a lineup ordering a burger.
Oh, and I told the tall gentleman that I was incredibly impressed by his gesture as we were getting our condiments. He thanked me and then said, “It was the least I could do.”
Take the time today to just remember. It is, after all, the least we can do.
Photo credit: SzymonB (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)