Never Forget.

November 17, 2017

Never Forget.

Never forget.

The day before Veteran’s Day a chance encounter deepened my perspective of the frailty of human life, our freedom and our connectedness; and unflinchingly presented someone to remind me to never forget.

A gracious man.

The edges of the sleeves of his coat were frayed and his pants, which were belted tightly to hold them up on his slight frame, scuffed across the floor as he shuffled slowly among the aisles of the grocery store. We had met at the entrance when he had extended one arm with a slight bow of his head, a show of gracious concession, waving me ahead of him to grab a cart. He had smiled warmly at me, revealing his deep, well earned lines of a life lived. His eyes were kind and warm, but carried the pain of a man who had seen and felt much too much of the world.

I was only there for a few things.

I was only there for a few things and was attempting to rush through the store when he parked his cart in front of the door to the frozen food I had been heading toward. Rather than bustle ahead to the next task, I waited patiently and observed. He slowly picked up a gallon of milk, examined it and put it back on the shelf. He inched forward to look at another choice, clearly in no hurry at all. He ended up choosing a different brand of milk, placing it gingerly in his cart and then continuing on his steady journey along the aisle.

Our paths would cross a couple more times and each time I noticed him, he was paused in front of a shelf, laboring over a decision. By the time I was heading toward a cashier, I noticed he had accumulated only a smattering of items in his basket.

In an inspired moment of intention I hit the button for cash back and circled through the store to find him, carefully constructing what I wished to say so as not to offend. “Excuse me, sir. Someone recently showed me an act of kindness and I wish to pay it forward,” I said as I reached out to hand him the money. His head tilted quizzically. He looked down for just a moment, then back up into my eyes, “Thank you,” he said simply.

As I was heading to my car I noticed the van. It was from another county and had the words “Veteran’s Services” on the side. I loaded my bags and was returning my cart when I saw him pointing in my direction to the driver, who mouthed the words “thank you” to me across the parking lot. I nodded back in deference, pausing for just a moment to watch him enter the van before I slid into my own car and waited for the tears that had pooled in my eyes to subside.

I was only there for a few things.

But I left with so much more.





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