Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a "moment?" It’s when all of a sudden you’re smack-dab in the center of "something" that you had no way of anticipating or had only planned on observing from afar. Inspiration is a funny thing. There are times I am diligent in keeping my eyes and heart open and aware to finding it whenever possible. Other times, it finds me, in spite of myself. This week was one of those times. What began as simply showing up, became an event that touched my heart and proved to be absolutely inspiring.
On Wednesday, there was a small article in our local paper entitled, "Returning vets to be honored." Below it, in smaller type, it said, "Public urged to participate in tonight’s welcome home of vets making visit to D.C." Over a hundred World War II veterans had taken an all expense paid "Honor Flight" to Washington, D.C. for a tour of the World War II Memorial and other sites. They were expected to return to our local airport at 8:45 p.m.
A friend of mine brought the article to Bible study and at the last minute, we decided to end early and a few of us went to participate in welcoming them home. We arrived with virtually no time to spare and entered the far gate to join a crowd of about 300. Not far inside the gate was a truck filled with beautiful American flags on long poles and a man handing them out to all who wanted one. The 6 of us casually accepted the flags, happy to show our support for these virtually unsung heroes. What we did not know, is that we were soon to become an integral part of the festivities.
The man in charge of the Honor Guard soon gave us instructions as to how to line up and what we would be doing. Having been quite satisfied to stay in the background holding these flags, we found ourselves suddenly front and center. One line was formed diagonally from the front exit of the plane, the other from the back exit of the plane, forming a V that led to a red carpet. Every WWII veteran that was on that plane passed a line of flags, welcomed by cheers and applause from the crowd behind us. For us, what began as a casual show of support, became an opportunity to look these brave men in their tear-filled eyes and say a heartfelt ‘thank you.’ Some came down the line, shaking the hand of every flag bearer, thanking us for being there. It was an absolutely incredible experience.
I couldn’t help but think about how close I had been to missing out on the opportunity. Not because I didn’t know about it, but because I was tired and thoughts and attitudes are not always what they should be. In retrospect, I am so glad I did not miss that experience. Just two days before I had neglected to stop and say thank you to a service man that I had seen in a local restaurant. I had been regretting that. Now, I had a new opportunity and little could match the importance of what I felt at that moment. Suddenly, I had the privilege to be a cheerleader and say thank you to a group of people that are partially responsible for the freedoms that I enjoy today. I have been blessed by their efforts and now I could be a blessing to them. It was indeed powerful.
I read the next day in the paper that many of them began crying when they looked out the windows of the airplane and saw the crowd gathered and the flags waving. Though they had a wonderful day in Washington, D.C. with many memorable experiences, they said the homecoming was the best. It is a tribute to the power of a thank you and the richness of connecting with a human heart.
For me, it was a good lesson. We just never know when a "suddenly" will break on the scene, upset our routine, and touch our hearts. Likewise, we never know when we will have the opportunity to touch others and speak into their lives. Whether it be the cubicals of our offices, the corridors of our schools, the aisles of the grocery store, or an airport runway, where there is appreciation, there is always the possibility for inspiration!
May inspiration find YOU this week!