Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Hero

Down the aisle from me in the store stood a skinny man, weather-beaten and tatooed. His little girl stood beside him. She couldn't have been more than 6 or 7 years old. They were picking out candy. He had some device that was loudly playing an annoying country music song that sounded only a little worse than fingernails on a blackboard. I must admit, I saw him as a great annoyance because anyone w...ho knows me knows how much I hate most country music.

But when it came time to ring everything up, the only aisle that was open was the one with the father and daughter, who stood directly in front of me.

He asked the cashier "Do you have any bandaids?"

She said they did but she didn't know where, so I pointed to the aisle they were in.

"No," he explained. "I just need one. Her bandaid is coming off her toe," and he indicated his little girl's foot.

I looked down to see a BEAUTIFUL manicure and for the first time I looked at the little girl carefully. She had on a pretty little cotton dress, her hair was brushed lovingly, and it was neatly pulled back and tied. Her toenails were painted cherry red, with a white heart in the center of each big toe.

"WOW," I said to her. "Who did your nails? They're BEAUTIFUL."

She smiled up shyly and said "My mommy."

"Well anyone can see you have a good mommy," I said. "She takes good care of you."

Her father smiled proudly. "I've just come back from two tours in Iraq," he started to say, and that was all he had a chance to say. I was floored. I said immediately and loudly "You served in Iraq? WOW! May I shake your hand?" Startled but proud, he slowly stuck out his hand. I shook it, and Austin (who was standing behind me) also shook his hand, thanking him for his service. The others in line behind us then chimed in, thanking him profusely.

"I've only been back a short time," he said. "It hasn't been easy. Most people don't say anything like this at all."

"That's a shame," I said, sadly. Then I turned to his little girl and said "Honey, your daddy is a real hero."

As they walked out the door and the cashier rang me up, I heard his little girl say to him "Daddy! That lady said you were a hero!"

...and that's when I teared up.