On Monday afternoon after a long journey home from our “Plan B Adventure” (otherwise known as lemonade from lemons), Evan and I were walking toward the front of the airplane to disembark when we spotted an elderly gentleman sitting in his seat, wearing a World War II cap on his head. My 10-year-old son looked at me and gasped, asking me if I saw him. “I need to meet him”, he said. “I need to thank him for his service!”
We exited the plane and we waited. We waited, and we waited, and we waited some more. Anyone familiar with ten year old boys knows that waiting is not something little boys do easily. But Evan’s eyes were intently focused on the door. He held his little “Thank you for your service” card tightly in his hand…and he waited silently.
We were asked several times by airline employees if we had left something on the plane or were waiting for someone else to deplane. “I am waiting for the World War II soldier”, my son would respond.
Finally, the gentleman’s daughter exited the plane, and an airline employee wheeled her father, the Veteran, out of the plane. Evan asked the daughter if he could talk to her father and give him a card. She was obviously very moved, and said yes – telling him to speak loudly because her father is 96 years old and has difficulty hearing.
Evan extended his hand to the gentleman, saying loudly and proudly, “Thank you for your service, Sir.”…and he placed his card in the man’s hand. The Veteran looked at Evan, and then looked down at the card, never letting go of his hand. He brought the card closer and read it. With tears in his eyes, he said “Thank you, young man. I was there at the very beginning.” Evan said, “Thank you for every minute you were there.”
I walked over to the gentleman and extended my hand and thanked him for his service as well. I told him that my father was a World War II Veteran. He said to me, “He was? I was there for five years, and…..” He was interrupted. In mid-sentence, as a 96-year-old Veteran of World War II began to speak about his experience, he was interrupted. Not by a 10-year-old boy, mind you…but by an airline employee who was in a hurry. “Alright, alright…let’s go. Let’s get moving here…enough of this. Let’s go.”
And just like that he cut off the experience – both for the 96-year-old Veteran and for his 10-year-old admirer.
To be or not to be the hope — is a choice.
There are moments in life that are so precious. In noticing them – in allowing them to happen – or in cultivating them – in being a catalyst for a hopeful moment – we can leave a light flickering in a heart forever.
Given the chance, it is far more worthwhile to be the hope – than it is to be in a hurry.