I used to jog every day and call it my 'gratitude run.' I'd make my gratitude list as I ran. I never ran out of things to be grateful for. My knees aren't what they used to be, but I still do my gratitude list every day.
- musician Sheryl Crow
As we celebrate the men and women in uniform–both past and present–I can’t help but think about a very long layover at Chicago O’Hare International Airport a few years ago.
I had been in Grapevine, Texas, signing my children’s Christmas books as part of a holiday special event, and now I was headed home. My husband Jeff and our oldest daughter, Abby, were with me, along with two of my cousins. It was December 23.
When we left the Dallas airport hours earlier, the weather in Chicago was cold but clear. However, by the time we arrived in Chi-town, we discovered that a winter storm had beaten us there. We were thankful we were able to safely land in the blur of white, but as we hurried off the plane and into the terminal, we were greeted with news that all flights had been grounded indefinitely.
We were stuck.
We had no idea if we’d make it home in time to celebrate Christmas with our loved ones. We weren’t the only ones. Hundreds of weary, worried and angry travelers surrounded us. Some stood blankly staring at the screens displaying “cancelled” beside every flight. Others rushed the rental car counters, trying to reserve one of the few remaining vehicles. Still others yelled at one another, nearby strangers and any airline associate they could find.
It was ugly and getting uglier by the minute.
For our inconvenience, we were given food vouchers, which was great since we hadn’t eaten since the morning. Only a few restaurants were still open, so we hurried and slipped into line at a nearby fast-food establishment. Just as we neared the front of the food line, that restaurant closed. In fact, every airport eatery closed. We were left with vending-machine peanut butter crackers and Diet Pepsi. Not exactly a meal, but better than nothing.
Since it didn’t look like any of us were leaving the airport that night, we were given cots. Countless cots and perturbed people–that’s what surrounded us. Jeff kept trying to reach our other daughter to let her know what was going on, while I tried not to cry at the possibility of spending Christmas Eve and maybe even Christmas in an airport away from the rest of my family.
Just then, my thoughts were interrupted by some activity at the gate right in front of us. The last plane of the night had landed and the passengers were making their way into the terminal. But these weren’t just any passengers. One by one, men and women dressed in uniform filed into the gate area, so grateful to be home.
All at once, the atmosphere changed.
People who had been waving their fists in anger moments before now used those same hands to applaud the uniformed heroes. The tears I had successfully held back began flowing freely as I stood and clapped and honored those brave men and women in uniform.
I scanned the room, and this time I didn’t see perturbed people but rather people of all ages, smiling, clapping and celebrating the selfless soldiers. The impromptu act of patriotism obviously touched the hearts of the soldiers. Overwhelmed by all of the applause, they just stood there and soaked it all in. Some wiped tears from their eyes. Some nodded and thanked the crowd. And some pointed up above as if to humbly say, “All the applause go to God... I’m just doing my job.”
It was a Christmas miracle, and it forever changed me. Since that night, every time I see a man or women dressed in uniform as I rush through an airport, I take time to say, “Thanks for serving our country. I appreciate you.” I encourage you to do the same. Don’t wait for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Veterans Day to honor and celebrate our men and women in the Armed Forces; let’s show our gratitude for their service every day and pray for their protection daily.
Pray: Father, I thank you for the men and women who serve this great country. I pray that you bless them and their families, and I pray that you protect them from harm. Father, I also pray for the veterans of this nation who have sacrificed so much. Please wrap your arms around them today and let them know how much we honor and appreciate them. In Jesus Mighty Name. Amen.
Michelle Medlock Adams is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author, with more than 60 books and 1,000 articles for newspapers and magazines to her name. She was won several SELAH Awards (best children’s book and book of the year for God Knows You in 2014 and best children’s book for My Big Book of Prayers in 2012), and her book Divine Stories of the Yahweh Sisterhood was named a Family Christian Bookstores Premiere Pick in 2006. When not working on her own assignments, Michelle ghostwrites books for celebrities and some of today’s most effective and popular ministers.
Michelle is married to her high school sweetheart, Jeff. They have two college-aged daughters, Abby and Allyson, as well as a small petting zoo. When not writing or teaching writing, Michelle enjoys cheering on the Indiana University Men’s Basketball team, the Chicago Cubbies and the LA Kings. Find out more about Michelle at her website.