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A Silver Star Thank You

A funny thing happened on the way home after an authors’ panel.

I’d just finished a conversation with best-selling novelist, Diane Chamberlain, enjoying a rush of excitement that comes after chatting with someone you admire. Walking through a parking lot at Cameron Village to meet my daughter, I spied a license plate with Silver Star for Gallantry posted on it. As I kept walking by the car, I thought, “Wow. That’s pretty special.”

The Silver Star Medal is awarded to servicemen for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.

I dug into my pocketbook for a pen and pad and wrote, “Thank you for your service.” I’ve never done that before. I feel a little strange saying five easy words to people who’ve sacrificed home and family, experienced life and death situations, and endured hardships that test emotional, physical, and spiritual strength. Yes, a thank you is nice but in no way compares with their effort.

On Sunday, however, I decided to turn around and leave the note. As I raised the windshield wiper to secure the paper, I heard a woman’s voice ask, “Is that your car?”

I glanced up to see a distinguished looking couple advancing toward me. The gentleman locked eyes with me and nodded.

Busted.

Embarrassed, I slid the note from under the wiper, and said, “Well, I’ll just hand it to you.” As he read the note and smiled, I stepped back, wanting to get away, wanting disappear. I’d meant the note to be an anonymous act of gratitude. He looked up and thanked me for it, but I didn’t want to be thanked for writing a quick, little note.

More embarrassment.

I explained I’d seen the notation on his license plate and confessed, “I didn’t think I’d be caught red handed.” I stepped forward, shook his hand, and said, “thank you,” again.

Then I decided to share, to try and explain that his service really did mean something to me, that I wasn’t just passing along a trite expression like “Have a nice day.” I told him, “I wasn’t expecting to be a military mom, but I have a son in ROTC at UNC-Chapel Hill and a son at West Point.” He said, “And does that make you apprehensive?”

I hesitated just for a second before admitting, “No, because I pray every day for them.” His companion started clapping. “Yes! That’s right. We have to pray for our people in uniform.” We chuckled. I thanked him again and finally completed my get away.

The veteran seemed genuinely happy with the note. I left him staring at it, smiling.

I’ve written before that words are powerful, that they make a difference. And now I know even trite ones, even easy ones can be special, too. A “thank you” says, “I noticed you. You made a difference in my life. Your effort counts.”

Pass along a “thank you” when you have a chance.

Who needs one today?

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Gratitude Day by Day

A couple of weeks ago, a friend suggested keeping a gratitude journal. After I wrote entries for several days, I wished I’d started at the beginning of the year. So I decided to go back to January and hit the highlights:
January—
*We had a New Year’s Day lunch with family.
*I saw Once with Anna.
*We had several beautiful snows.

February—
*I attended a BSF retreat in Florida.
*Karen started cleaning the downstairs for me.
*We attended a classical music night at Meredith College.
*Lane passed his methacholene challenge!

March–
*I traveled to Pittsburgh to meet with my literary agent, Jim Hart, and connected with dear, old friends, Nancy, Emily, Jill, and Colleen.
*We attended Parent/Plebe Weekend with Quinn at West Point, and I wore a designer gown created especially for me by Anna!

April—
*Kevin and I traveled to London to visit Hattie! We met her delightful host family and spent a wonderful week in England.

May—
*Lane finished his first year at UNC.
*Hattie came home from London.
*Quinn enjoyed a long weekend at home.
*I began writing my third book.

June—
*We enjoyed seeing friends at Deer Valley.
*We hosted a beautiful wedding at our pond.
*I rode in a helicopter.
*Summer Story Time began to great success.
*We hosted the Thompson family reunion.

July—
*The history committee for Princeton Baptist Church’s 125th celebration began planning.
*I interviewed Sheriff Steve Bizzell and Deputy Charlotte Fournier.
*Quinn came home a day early.
*I signed my first book contract for Mars…With Venus Rising.
*Amy and Jake Paterline visited—just like old times on Woodhill Drive.
*Lane read A Prayer for Owen Meany and laughed out loud from his perch on the couch.

August—
*I signed a book contract for Irish Encounter.
*I enjoyed a birthday breakfast with family, including my parents.
*Kevin and I enjoyed a delicious 26th anniversary supper at The Chef and The Farmer with Anna and Hattie.
*We celebrated Aunt Janice’s 80th birthday with the family.

September—
*I attended the Writers’ Police Academy and learned how sheltered a life I lead.
*Princeton Baptist Church celebrated 125 years of serving God.
*I attended the American Christian Writers’ Conference and met more great people.

Now I’m caught up to October when I began writing the gratitude journal every day. I hit the high spots for the previous nine months which sort of short changed the way God provided daily gifts throughout this year, so I’m glad for the chance to remember all the sweet ways God touches my life many, many times every single day.