Thank you for your service

I had just spent ten days in Central America; five days in Nicaragua, five days in Honduras and it was time to fly home. My head was clear, my heart was full but my body was very tired. After ten days in different beds, on a different sleep schedule, eating different foods and trying my best to speak Spanish I was tired and ready to be home.

The flight from Honduras to Atlanta was uneventful. I had a three-hour layover in Atlanta before continuing on to St. Louis and I knew I would need some of that time to go through immigration and all the security checkpoints.

I finally made it to my terminal and I had a little over an hour before my next flight so I decided to just keep moving. I began walking up and down the terminal with the goal of staying awake. After walking for a while I began to get text messages from the airline … “your 9pm flight will now depart at 9:20pm…. your 9:20pm flight will now depart at 9:45pm …. your 9:45pm flight will now depart at 10:55pm….” Urgh.

Walking for two more hours was just not an option so I grabbed an open seat at the small restaurant that was in front of me. On the other side of the restaurant, I noticed there was a table of four people. One of the men at the table was dressed in Army-issued gear.

I watched as people who were in a hurry and people who were exhausted like me began to pause to speak to him saying,  “Thank you for your service”. To each person, he would reply by nodding his head and saying, “It’s my pleasure.”

At some point, my attention shifted from his reaction to the reaction of those who expressed their gratitude. I noticed people walked away with a smile, they walked a little taller and had a little more pep in their step. Expressing their gratitude changed them.

I watched as a woman in her fifties pulled aside the waitress to say she wanted to pay for this man’s meal. She then walked over to the table, thanked him for his service and let him know that she’d take care of his bill. She turned around grinning from ear to ear all because she was going to pay the bill of a complete stranger as a way to thank him for his service.

I began to wonder, what if we all expressed that kind of gratitude to everyone who served in any capacity? What if we thanked every waitress, every taxi driver, every hourly fast-food worker, every airline employee, every teacher, or coach? What would happen if we expressed gratitude for any kind of service?

I think we’d all smile a little more, walk a little taller and have a little more pep in our step because that is what gratitude does. Gratitude changes us.

As we enter a new week I challenge you to act on opportunities for gratitude, moments when you can genuinely say “Thank you for your service.”

And, in an effort to lead the way, thank you for all you do, thank you for using your influence for good and thank you for your service ….