Two weeks before Christmas I was sitting on the tarmac at LAX in a crowded plane waiting for a mechanical problem to be fixed and thinking this was not the way to start the day. Nor was it conducive to conjuring up joyous thoughts for the holidays to come.
Of course, traveling in the post 9/11 era is rarely easy and never convenient. The captain announced the good news that the problem will be fixed. The bad news was the procedure required time — enough time to cause me to miss my connecting flight. I didn’t worry about being late for the speech I was scheduled to deliver the next morning but did not relish the prospects of what was shaping up to be a very long travel day.
As the wait continued, my mind wandered back to about two hours earlier. After making my way through the long lines and the security checks, I got a cup of coffee and walked the departure gate. Across from it was an area that looked like a winter wonderland — the kind where, as a pre-boomer kid growing up during WWII, I stood in line at one of the big department stores in Philadelphia to tell Santa Claus what I wanted for Christmas.
The sign at the location said, “Welcome to the Snowball Express.” There was an array of characters right out of toy land, plus Santa’s helpers, individuals sporting reindeer antlers and a group of veterans waving small American flags. It was an impressive reception for a group of children under ten who were not far behind me. I turned and saw the sparkle in their eyes and the look of childhood anticipation that youngsters get this time of year.
A little investigation disclosed that these were not ordinary children. They were the sons and daughters of fallen military heroes from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, while they for the moment forgot the sadness of losing a parent or had yet to realize the pain that accompanies growing up without a mother or father, these deserving children were about to spend a few days flying to various cities around the country in this pre-Christmas celebration. This was happening thanks to American Airlines and other companies along with the donations of individuals like you and me.
When the captain announced we were ready to depart, I snapped out of my trance. Instinctively, my mind wanted to go back to thinking how I was inconvenienced by the delay. Instead, I chose to return to the image of the children’s beaming faces and hoped that visions of sugar plums would dance in their heads tonight and throughout the Christmas season. Yes, I was inconvenienced that day, but these children will spend a lifetime trying to adjust to their situations.
I believe this story is appropriate for Christmas Eve. And with it go my wish that each of you has a merry and joyous Christmas. I also hope you will join me in remembering those who have given their lives so we can be free. And, let us include their children in our prayers, because they will need these blessing now and in the years to come.