Getting good and close to it makes a difference
Saturday evening I spent about an hour and a half riding on a jet from Ontario Airport in California to Salt Lake City after attending corporate meetings the end of last week.
Once we were off the ground I plugged in my I-Pod and listened to some music while I read the airline magazines in the seat pocket in front of me. The jet was one of those small 70 passenger jobs so there were only two seats on each side, and next to me sat a young man who was reading a book. We didn't say much to each other except how loud the speaker above our heads was when the pilot came on to make his announcements.
When the plane landed in Salt Lake we had to wait for some other planes on the tarmac to deplane and I noticed the book he was reading was The World is Flat, a publication I wrote a column about last year after I read it. I commented to him that I had read it too.
"Yeah, after reading only part of it I realize that if I had kids right now I would be guiding them in the right direction to be sure they had jobs when they grew up," he said. "I am glad I am doing what I am doing."
I asked him what that was and he told me that he is a Navy corpsman, serving with the Marines. He explained that the Marines have no corpsmen (field medical people) so that the Navy supplied them for the Marines.
"Have you been involved in Iraq?" I asked him.
"Yeah I am on leave now," he said. "I just got back from northwestern Iraq on May 4 and am going home on leave," he said. "I am stationed at 29 Palms."
We started to talk and even though I know it is not up to a soldier to comment on a war that is being fought I asked him how he felt things in Iraq were going.
"You know I can't comment about the whole war so much but I can tell you we are doing some good there," he said. "In cities where I was there was a police presence they haven't had for years and that meant more peace. Most of us that are serving there know that we can't know every thing about the whole war, but we can do our little part to make the world better and that is what we are trying to do."
He sat for the next five minutes telling me about the good he had seen we had done by our presence. He also pointed out that what gets reported in terms of violence is mostly the big stuff and that while it is dangerous, there are a lot of positive things happening in the country.
"I love what I do and we just want to complete the mission," he said. " I hope people in this country will let us do that."
The plane then rolled into the gate and I thanked him for the conversation. I also added something else.
"Regardless of how a person feels about the war, I think the vast majority of us are proud of what you are doing," I said. "We just need to say thanks more because you all deserve it."
I got up and we both walked off the plane and he ran up the terminal to make his flight to Denver and I met the other publishers to go pick up our baggage.
That short conversation, on the spur of the moment made me feel good, and made me realize, as I have realized before, things aren't always how we perceive them. Hearing things from "the horses mouth" can really affect us all when we get the chance to do it.
I felt so proud to have been able to speak with him; so humble.
It truly was the highlight of my trip.