Important Lessons Found in Ordinary Places

We were at the mall last weekend, looking for that “must have” pair of shoes that my daughter needed in order to begin a successful school year. It was the second mall we ventured to that day. An associate at the first shoe store we visited was kind enough to call ahead to another store that was thirty miles away, in the opposite direction. Once we got to our second destination, it was “mission accomplished” for our shoe mission.

We rewarded ourselves with a quick visit to the LEGO store, just to look around a bit. How the mind can wander in the LEGO store, with all of the wonderful kits that are now available! My family has been known to get caught up in our surrounding in that particular store without being aware of our surroundings or the time.

Last Saturday’s visit was different.

We had just turned the corner to look at the latest “Mars Mission” kits when I looked up and noticed a soldier in fatigues looking at some LEGO sets with his young son. They were engrossed with all of the remarkable details of the sets, just as my son and I typically are.

I’ve come across many active duty service personnel over the years. Often times, I’ve seen them in airports or restaurants. Like many of you, my first instinct is to shake their hands and thank them for the invaluable service that they provide for our country. We usually end up talking about where they’re from, where they’re headed and how long they’ll be there. I end up saying a silent prayer as I walk away, praying for their safety and the safety for those they are leaving behind (either at home, or on the battlefront).

This time was different.

I approached the soldier, extended my hand and said, “Thank you for keeping us safe.” The young soldier’s eyes filled with tears and he simply said, “Thank you.” The young boy that was with him looked back and forth at the two of us during the short silence. My eyes filled up with tears too and I said, “You’re welcome.”

Never before had I come across such an emotional moment quite like this, when thanking one of our servicemen. Perhaps it was the sadness of leaving behind a son to serve overseas, or maybe it was the pride of having the next generation witness the gratitude.

As my family walked down to our next destination in the mall, there was also a silence that lasted for a few minutes. Once I felt comfortable speaking, I asked my son and daughter if they were fully aware of the exchange in the LEGO store. We often don’t give our children the benefit of taking away a good lesson from the visible examples we provide.

They had indeed noticed the power of gratitude and respect making contact with the appreciation for simple recognition.

How often do we let moments like this slip away? I find myself becoming more conscious of opportunities like this when I can instill the sense of respect for honor and country to my children.

As a parent, I believe it is the very best gift I can give to them.

The purpose of this post is not to tell others how to express their appreciation, or to provide a “look what I did” moment — but it’s simply my way to acknowledge the gift of opportunity, that we often have, to benefit from the lessons found in ordinary places.

Many of us are afraid of showing our emotions, or looking silly.

We’re only silly when we let the opportunities pass us by.

Troopwalk 2009 Update:

Ruth Adkins has had to return to Phoenix, AZ in order to attend to some serious health concerns. Please lift Ruth up in your prayers for a solid and speedy recovery.

You can follow Ruth’s journey on her blog:

Additional Notables:

Be sure to checkout the outstanding BASE NEWS article that retired Col. Terry Fobbs recently wrote for The Washington Times, highlighting the mission of former Miss America Sharlene Wells Hawkes to help preserve memories for those who served.

You can read the article by visiting:

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Carol says:

    Nice story. Those soldiers never cease to amaze me. I luckily grew up with a Dad who made the Army his career and is my personal hero. They are so modest and humble about their service!

    1. Jeff Wolfe says:

      Thank you. You are so right about the sense of modesty that military members have. It sounds like you picked an outstanding personal hero!

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