just ponderin'

… on saying thank you

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack in February of 2005, my beloved New England Patriots were playing the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl and we were about to become a dynasty.

I will point out here that “we” is intended, as I am a massive part of their success because I take magical thinking to a high art that involves everything from a gifted Pittsburg Steelers blanket that backfired on its giver and became a Patriots good luck charm, to varied bobbleheads placed carefully around the room on game day. This practice includes a bobblehead of Bo Schembechler, the famous and fabled Michigan coach, given to me by the family of Bo himself (they are awesome people and also gave me a matching Christmas ornament and it is one of my favorites to ‘discover’ every year).

Huh?

What’s the link between Bo Schembechler and the New England Patriots?

Tom Brady went to Michigan.

You always put Bo’s bobblehead next to (really just behind) Brady’s bobblehead, so Bo can watch over Brady as he plays.

Duh.

Keep up people.

Anyway.

I found something I wrote at the time, and I thought it was appropriate to share its sentiments today.  Today is Veteran’s Day in the U.S., but the sentiment is the same for every country and every person on our big blue planet.

If you watched that Super Bowl – or even the post game advertising analysis – you probably saw it.

The scene opens and you are in the terminal of a relatively calm airport. People are milling about  – buying newspapers, getting coffee, checking flight information. People are getting on with their busy days.

Then someone in the terminal begins to clap.

Then another.

Then another.

And the camera pans back to show you what has prompted this tribute.

Soldiers.

Men and women. Some young, some a bit older.

Soldiers dressed in their desert cammies, holding their duffels. Some smiling humbly at the applause, some looking straight ahead.  Some all out beaming with pride.

Soldiers coming home.

If your Super Bowl gathering was anything like mine, your friends stopped in their tracks for that one. Once you heard the first clap, you had the feeling that this was going to be a pretty cool commercial.  And when it was all done, the screen faded to black. Two words faded up in white letters.

“Thank you.”

In our day-to-day lives, it’s sometimes easy to forget – or should I say, sometimes hard to really appreciate – that we have soldiers working and fighting for us right now.

Sometimes it’s even easier to forget that we see soldiers every day, and don’t even realize it – men and women who served, and who fought for us and for our country, in wars and conflicts, but who no longer do.

These people are not so hard to find or notice.

They might live next door.

Maybe a woman gets out of a car, at your local supermarket, and you notice a veteran’s license plate on her car.

Maybe an old man sits on a bench, outside that same supermarket, and he wears a cap emblazoned with the emblem of the aircraft carrier he served on during a war that he simply calls, “The Big One”.

What do you do when you realize you are in the presence of an active soldier, or a veteran?

What do your children do?

In my house, we keep it simple. Even the most complex concepts can be broken down to the basics.

When somebody does something nice for you, you say “thank you”.

Veterans Day and Memorial Day are days when you can say ‘thanks’ as a part of ongoing celebrations and tributes in small towns and big cities all across our country. It is a great opportunity to help our kids (and each of us) to practice our manners.

We even get something out of it.

It feels good.

In May 1998, we went over to Hudson, New Hampshire to enjoy the Memorial Day parade and to see our nieces and nephew march with the Girl and Boy Scouts. It was the first Memorial Day Parade where number one son, Sam – who had just turned four – was ‘hanging out with the big kids’ right next to the parade route, while we stood back a little bit, taking it all in.

The fire trucks rolled by and Sam smiled and looked back to make sure we’d seen them.

The band and cheerleaders went by and Sam danced to the beat of the drums.

The troops of Girl and Boy Scouts went past and we all got a little closer, taking pictures, and Sam spotted his cousins and waved wildly.

And then came the soldiers.

They were, as they always are, resplendent in their dress uniforms. Their decorations shining and worn proudly.

I am always a bit stunned, and a little breathless, when I see them. I can’t help but wonder where they served. What they saw.

We began to clap as soon as they were in view and the clapping went on as they approached where we were standing.

That was when Sam took a few steps away from the ‘big kids’, toward the marching soldiers.

I was eight months pregnant at the time, but I moved quickly toward my ‘wandering child’, and took the ten or so steps necessary to reach the edge of the sidewalk.

Sam had stopped and had planted himself in place, not two feet from the legs of the men marching nearest to him.

He was leaning toward the soldiers, and he had his chubby little hands cupped around his mouth. And with all the noise from the band, and all the clapping, I couldn’t hear what he was yelling until I was really close.

He was yelling, “Thank you!” at the top of his four-year-old lungs. He just kept yelling it at all the soldiers who passed by.

Some shyly smiled at him.

Some looked straight ahead.

And some all out beamed with pride.

And one, one I will never forget, broke formation and slowed down just enough to reach out and pat Sam on the head and say,

“You’re welcome, little buddy.”

And then he rejoined his line, and marched on, and I never saw him again.

But I did see Sam.

He was beaming.  And I’m talkin’ all out, sparkly eyed, four year old beaming.

I can remember my grandmother, when she was trying to instill manners in my sister and myself, gently reminding us that, “We say ‘thank you’ in this house.”

We could all take a lesson from that.

“Thank you for all you do” seems to startle some soldiers when they hear it. But then they realize what you mean, and I have never seen one able to contain a smile.

It makes sense.

It’s nice to have your work noticed.

Especially when you are working to protect the people, and a nation, that offers you their thanks.

It’s hard, sometimes, to reconcile the concepts of freedom and liberty and conservatism and liberalism and politics and living and dying.

As with all wars and conflicts, there exists the jumble of opposing views and accusations and contradictory opinions.  But sometimes when things seem the most complicated, it makes sense to boil things down to the simple – to the basic elements – when deciding how to act or behave.

And when it comes to our soldiers, to our veterans, I’m all for getting back to basics.

We say thank you in this house.

Thanks for readin’.

As always, you can come on over to Just Ponderin’s facebook page to comment or just hang out!

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