While out running errands today, I pushed my cart down the aisle of a store, and crossed paths with an older man. He looked to be in his 80s, and was thin, frail, and stooped over from osteoporosis. He also looked a little lost; distant, and I suspected he was in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Yet for being not-fully-here, he was still very mindful of his appearance. He wore black spit-shined shoes, crisply pressed khaki dress pants, a navy pull-over windbreaker, and perfectly combed silver hair. Only as his full image entered my consciousness did I finally notice his hat:
Then I remembered: Today is Veteran’s Day. And in that moment, I saw this sweet, frail old man as a young, vibrant, cocky 19-year-old, palling around with his buddies in the downtime of fighting a violent and scary war.
Initially when I saw this gentleman, my heart felt compassion, kindness, and sympathy. As I processed not only the person this man currently is, but also the man he was and has been, I felt humility, respect, deep gratitude, and awe.
I watched the man before me puzzle over which item he wanted to purchase; and I silently thanked him for all he has done – whether he remembers it or not.