This Thanksgiving it is important to reflect on what we are thankful for and what we take for granted.
“Thank you for your service.” We hear this term a lot in recent years as we see more and more soldiers coming home from serving abroad. It carries with it a sense of honor that someone would volunteer to stand where I choose not to.
Some use it as a quick excuse to get out of an awkward situation. You see someone in full fatigues at the airport or grocery store and you respect them, then they head your way. What can you do? “Thank you for your service.”
I haven’t used the phrase myself, finding it as useless as the “Thanks for taking my call” that starts most radio caller diatribes. It has almost become required without being required, if you catch my drift.
When I see a Soldier, Marine, Airman or other armed service member traveling through my airport I always stop and offer assistance, either with directions, a call to the USO center or even a cup of coffee. I address them by name if I can see it and refer to them by rank if I can. When I am nearby and someone casually says, “Thank you for your service” then continue on I can see the awkwardness in the service member’s face and body language. What do we expect?
Recently I had an HVAC guy come out to the house to give the furnace a once over before winter rolls in. As he approached the house he saw my car in the driveway and the Firefighter license plate.
“You a fireman?” He asked putting down his tools.
“Yup” I answered and took a sip of coffee.
This fellow in his mid 20s squared his shoulders, looked me in the eye and offered a handshake adding, “Thank you for your service.”
I was frozen. I had no idea how to react. Not only did I not like that statement, it doesn’t apply to me. Sure I work for a service, provide a service and volunteered to do something few others do, but I’m not a soldier. Why would he say that? So I asked.
He told me that he admired firefighters but could never imagine himself going into a burning building or dealing with sick or dying people. He saw firefighters as an integral part of the community and made a point of saying thank you to each one he saw.
It was that moment, standing in my garage sipping coffee that it occurred to me: I don’t get a say in what he wants to say.
Much like the imagined “War on Christmas” where anyone who says “Happy Holidays” is labeled an enemy of America, it shouldn’t matter what was said, but that anything was said at all. I shouldn’t be upset that this person put me in a category I imagined, I should simply say “Thank you” and move on.
When I return to work I don’t think my reaction to soldiers I see will change but I will certainly see folks passing by in a different light. After all, they could have just kept walking, not saying anything at all.
It should only matter that they chose to say something, not necessarily how perfect their words may be.
Something to consider this Holiday Season.