Saturday we were having lunch at California pizza kitchen together, just the hubby, boys, and I (family time I have been craving). We are enjoying our appetizer, helping Aiden practice his writing, chit chatting about nothing and everything all at the same time. We were keeping to ourselves in the back of the restaurant, the kids were behaving :-), when an older gentleman approaches us and complements us on our beautiful family. He starts asking us questions about our family and then asks Leif if he is in the service. He thanks Leif for his service, he thanks me for mine which he pointed out was much harder than being the actual service member. Super kind, right? He then proceeds to tell us about his service, his family, and then says "well I won't keep you any longer but order whatever you want because I have taken care of your bill". What???? Leif of course tries to thank him but tell him that's not necessary and the man would hear nothing of it. Leif stands to shake the mans hand and the guy reaches over and gives him a giant hug. As he pulls away both Leif and I notice that his eyes are filled with tears...we are both in shock. As he walks away he says to Leif "thank you for your service, I know it's a tough job but I appreciate it". He turns to me and says " your job is tougher than his. Thank you for your service".
We both just couldn't believe it and we're incredibly shocked yet very appreciative. Leif then says "should I buy him a drink? I feel bad, that was so nice". I told him the best thing we could do was pay it forward.
Our conversation then drifted to the serious generational gap that we face. Past generations had such a pride in their service and society treated the military with respect and as if their job was important. I told Leif that the past generations of veterans are so passionate about what they did and they carry that pride with them everyday. Nowadays our civilian population has adopted the "you knew what you were getting into so why should I care attitude". It's a shame...some members of our own family have that mentality. I could say it and have said it a million times over...it is a lifestyle...not a job! If those who serve didn't, then who would? I'll go ahead and answer that question...you would! You would be drafted, your loved ones would be drafted...sounds like the people I want defending my freedom. The older generation just gets it...they know the sacrifice and appreciate those who answer the call.
We didn't know this man and he didn't know us...for all I know he could be living pay check to pay check or in his eyes so could we. It wasn't about the money, it was the principle and the gesture. It's about showing appreciation for a tough job, for a sacrifice, and for a shared bond between 2 men, generations apart, still both fighting the good fight.
Some days I feel like I have more pride for what Leif does than he does for himself. He is a humble man and although he would never toot his own horn, he has experienced great success and is one hell of a human being. He's an example to me and I know to many others who have encountered him. But my hope is that this gesture inspires him to see the greatness of this world and the pride that people, not enough of them, have for his service and the service of others. It's not just about him, it's not just about the job, not just about a free meal... It's about gratitude and appreciation! It's about kindness and generosity! Share it!!! Let's not be so selfish and cynical. I don't care if it is the lady at 7-11 or the man or woman in uniform...let's spread kindness, people! I can tell you from experience that it feels good to be on the unexpected receiving end of it and even better to share it with someone who least expects it. We plan to pay it forward as often as possible and so should you.