While standing among thousands of holiday travelers in a crowded airport this week, the spirit of Thanksgiving appeared before my very eyes.
“Welcome home, Dad!” read the white cardboard sign.
The letters, each handwritten in the best a 5-year old boy can muster with a box of crayons, filled the sign along with shooting stars and rainbows.
Sometimes we seem to get all caught up in the holidays – the worries and stress we tend to place on ourselves. Who is coming to dinner? Will everyone like the side dishes? How will we get the house ready?
For this little boy, seeing his dad was all that mattered.
Across the airport lobby an elevator pushes people up and out into a small waiting area for those waiting for travelers. You see all kinds of people – drivers for hire, grandparents waiting to see their grandkids, or business travelers returning from a long flight.
But on this day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays – whatever – were coming up the elevator any minute now for one little boy.
His mom stood nearby, rocking back and forth of her the balls of her feet. Nervous excitement is harder to hide when you know what is coming.
With waves of people washing up onto the platform, the young boy adjusted his sign, peering around the sides hoping to catch a glance of his dad. With each passing wave, he’d turn to his mother, somewhat confused. And each time, she’d look down, encouraging him to be patient.
Patience is not a virtue of little boys.
As a few more moments passed, a new wave of passengers rose up through the elevator exits. His mom voice involuntarily screamed.
The tall man, dressed in his army battle fatigues, stepped out from the crowd and ran towards his family. The little boy, seeing his dad, dropped the sign and ran towards him – leaping into his arms.
The little boy’s mother, her hands pressing hard against her cheeks, began racing to her husband – the three of them embracing – as passengers were swarming around them like stream water around a boulder.
As beautiful as the moment unveiled, then came the unexpected. The crowd of people waiting on others, noticing the reunion of the military man and his son, broke into applause and cheers for the returning soldier and his family.
With the little boy hugging his dad’s neck, I noticed the only feet planted on the ground were the sand colored dessert boots of the solider.
Suddenly the applause and cheers began to pierce the privacy of the family’s reunion. The boy, looking around and realizing the applause was directed his way, buried his head into his father’s shoulder. The soldier, noticing the love being sent his way by those around him, smiled proudly as he held his entire world in his arms.
And for one little boy, Thanksgiving, Christmas and his birthday all came on one day.
(This holiday season let’s make sure to include the brave service people and their families in our thoughts and prayers. We all owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.)
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