Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"I'd Like You to Take My Seat"

Never suppress a generous thought. That's what my friend taught me. I thank all those generous Americans who have been so generous to the men and women of the United States military. It helps us to remember what we're fighting for--goodness.

A friend recently told me a story about an acquaintance of hers that was flying home from a trip someplace. Because of a unique circumstance, she was upgraded to first class, and she was very excited about it. But as she was waiting to board, she noticed a lone female soldier waiting to board as well. A strong impression occurred to the lady: "Give her your seat."

She was, however, a bit shy in offering, and was excited to experience first-class flying for the first time. But again the impression came.

The lady then asked a nearby steward to help her find the young soldier on the plane. Soon the lady and the young soldier had exchanged seats. A few minutes into the flight, the soldier came back to where the lady was now sitting in her former seat. She said simply, "Thank you, ma'am. You'll never know how much this meant to me." She handed the lady a note and walked back to her seat.

The lady opened the note, which contained a small metal cross, one which were inscribed the words "God loves you." The note said: "You couldn't possibly have known how much your giving up your seat to me has elevated my spirits. You see, I'm returning home from Iraq for a fews days to attend my mother's funeral, and then I have to return. My mother was killed in a car accident. I began to think that I hated God, because he had abandoned me in my greatest time of need. But your actions have been as those of a guardian angel, and now I love God because you have helped me to remember that He still does love me."

As my friend closed her story, she finished her speech by reminding us, "Never suppress a generous thought."

It made a strong impression on me when I was returning to Iraq from my 15 day leave a year ago that the airlines gave me an upgrade to first class. I do not know if someone gave up their seat for me that day, but if you did, I salute you.

Serving in the Iraqi 'tornado' is without doubt the most difficult thing that most of us have done in our lives. Sometimes we make bad choices, and the Iraqi people have suffered for it. But with your generosity, hopefully we are more apt to realize that because the folks back home care about us, we will strive to serve with more dignity to help the people of Iraq enjoy the blessings that Americans take for granted.


Flag Gazer said...

Your previous post about the tackiness of American culture relates to this one. As tackiness takes hold, less and less remember to be kind. It takes so little to say thank you, hold a door for someone, smile - the little things have to come before the big ones. I have always loved America for her kindness and generosity. I worry that we are forgetting how. It must begin within our hearts and with our daily actions.

I love this story and am glad that your friend had the opportunity to let the goodness in her heart translate into action. There is no better feeling than when that happens!

I would not trade anything for the troop support we have done - I have gotten back so much more than I have given... but, that is God's lesson, isn't it?!

Frank Staheli said...

I hadn't thought about how the two posts relate, but I think you're right.

Sometimes it's hard to give, but I agree that we are usually blessed more for giving than we actually gave!

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

That is a great story. I think no small act can ever be taken lightly. You just never know the effect a smile may have at a passing stranger, when he might have needed it most.

When I've ridden the bus, I've sometimes looked at all the faces and wondered what each person's story is. Each has a life like mine with loved ones who care very much for them. What trials and tribulations might they be experiencing? What joys and successes? During those times of reflection, I feel much closer to my fellow human beings.

I remember when I first taught gymnastics for the kids at the gym that I'm at, I told a girl at the end of class that she did well. I was earnest, but didn't think much of it. Just a casual, flippant remark. The following week the mother came up to me and asked if I was the one who told Molly that she did well in class; and the mom described how excited Molly was; how she stayed in line, paid attention, and how she felt the new instructor (ie, me) really liked her. That had a profound effect upon me. 8 years later, I still hold that experience close to my heart when I'm teaching.

Here is the experience of my friend, Debbie (whose daughter was also another student of mine):

Dear Friends and Family -

Some of you have heard my tale of a chance encounter with Congressional of Honor recipient - James A. Taylor of Trinity California. I wanted to share it again - or for the first time - in honor of Veterans Day (which I thought was celebrated today - not Friday). So here we go a couple of days late - but still important and heartfelt.

Earlier this year I was on a business trip in Tampa with my assistant Heidi. At the end of a very long day we were riding the elevator up to our hotel rooms to relax and enjoy room service. We shared the elevator with two quiet gentlemen. While riding up to different floors - I noticed that the younger of the two wore a shirt with an ornate military-style emblem. At first I just glanced and then looked away - but then I decided to 'connect' and asked him if he had served. He said yes, but with no further comment. So, I said, 'Where?" After a VERY LENGHTY list in response, I was at a loss of what to say. So, after a long pause I reached out my hand to him and said thank you.

After we left the elevator and started down the hall to our rooms - the other - older gentleman followed us a few steps and called out that they would like us to come back as they had something to give me. After careful hesitation we returned - and the first gentleman reached out and placed a medal in my hand. I looked down and saw that it was his Commemorative Medal of Honor. Virtually speechless, I told him I could not take it - but he strongly insisted. He said I was the first civilian to ever thank him. He served in Vietnam - his name is James A. Taylor. Here is the link to his award bio: http://www.cmohs.org/recipients/living_cites_tz.htm.

I carry his medal with me every day. A reminder to always care, appreciate and say thank you to those who have done so much for us.

Love to you all,

Frank Staheli said...


Thanks for the story. It's always good that despite the politics we show respect and gratitude for those who answered the call in any war. I heard on Fox News today that there is a growing sentiment that it is important to show the troops that they are cared about and respected regardless of the shenanigans and quarrels that are going on in congress.

Thanks again.