Put Your Hands Together, For You

This past winter, I was heading back east for a visit. As everyone was buckling seatbelts and settling in for a long winter’s flight from Dallas to Boston, the pilot came on. But he didn’t mumble through the usual announcements of flying time and altitude. Instead he gave a welcome—to the 11 members of a Massachusetts infantry regiment who were just boarding the plane. On their way back from Afghanistan, they’d be home in time for the holidays.

At that, the whole planeload of weary, knees-in-their-chest air travelers transformed from their dull, quiet misery into a rowdy group, thunderously clapping and hooting.

It made me cry.

Because God only knows what kind of frightening, traumatic events these guys had seen and survived.

Because, no matter what you think about our war, they deserve to be acknowledged like this everywhere they go for the rest of their lives.

And because we live in such an anonymous world, it’s unbelievably tender when we just, simply, notice each other.

I got thinking of people I know who could use a little noticing.

The neighbor whose house has been for sale for nearly four years while he’s working hard in another state to pay two mortgages.

My old friend who did not get the news she had prayed for at her last oncology appointment.

And everyone who has received an unexpected diagnosis, an unpayable bill, unbearable news or no news at all.

I imagined the pilot welcoming them:

“Ladies and gentleman, today we have on board Bill, who currently works for less than half the salary he made last year just so his family can have health insurance. Let’s give him a hand.”

“Please extend a special welcome to Jane. Ten minutes ago, Jane’s 16 year-old-daughter texted her to say she is pregnant.”

“And let’s send out a little love to Cindy in seat 21A. Today Cindy is on her way to her dad’s funeral.”

Yeah, I thought, each of us deserves a little spontaneous applause.

So today, stand up and take a bow. Yes, you.

The one who habitually over-commits to committees, bake sales, silent auctions and car washes.

Who always checks in when you haven’t heard from your best friend in a few days.

Who asks the chemo nurse how she’s doing.

Who enthusiastically listens to the five-year-old neighbor tell the same story for the 1000th time.

Who smiles at strangers and chats with cashiers even when you have a pounding headache.

Who always picks up McDonalds bags and Budweiser cans from the roadside and carries them home in your jacket when you’re out on a walk.

Who gives a dollar bill to the homeless woman when you don’t have quite enough for your own groceries.

The one who shows up and shows up and shows up.

Thank you for your sacrifice and your service.

Because without you, what would we be?