My granddaughter says she had the best day of her life Saturday. I had little enough to do with it, but I did put her in the right place at the right time, so Pawpaw scores some points.
She’s 10 years old with a precocious interest in politics and government. She’s also very big on family — she enjoys learning about her genealogy and meeting extended family members.
So it was a double whammy Saturday when I took her to meet Congressman Bill Enyart, who is her third cousin. She had not met him before but had campaigned for him as she lives in his district; she passed out 23 bumper stickers at her school. She was pretty excited to meet him.
The occasion was Congressman Enyart’s retirement from the military. He served as the head of the Illinois National Guard for the past 10 years and is a 2-star general. We attended the “change of command” ceremony.
I kept looking over at Kelsey; I thought she might be getting bored, but she was enthralled. After the ceremony, we waited in the reception line so she could get her picture taken with the congressman and get his autograph. The congressman didn’t disappoint. Already, Kelsey was proclaiming this to be the best day of her life, but there was more to come.
We went to lunch along with some other family that had driven over for the ceremony. We were waiting for our food when the congressman and his wife walked into the restaurant. We weren’t expecting them, but the table next to ours was open, so they joined our party. Now Kelsey had a chance to spend more time with him.
He gave her a business card and offered to visit her school. She told him what she had told us earlier: “This is the best day of my life.” He took the comment humbly, pointing out that her life was relatively young and that she will undoubtedly have many more “best days.”
After the meal, she went over to him to show him one of her many bracelets. She was wearing a charm bracelet with a star and a flag. The emblems reminded her of him, she told him.
“Well, here,” he said. He pulled the flag patch off his uniform and handed it to her. The little chatterbox was rendered speechless. I think the whole table was speechless. I was a little jealous. Not really jealous, but I didn’t know what to say.
I thought maybe, “Hey, General, you’re out of uniform,” but that seemed a bit ungracious. No, this was a serious moment. It was, after all, the best day of Kelsey’s life. I could have bought her a pony and it would have paled in comparison.
I’m sure the congressman saw it as a small thing, but he also knew it was a huge thing for her. Days later, her feet still haven’t touched the ground. For a few days, at least, some boy band out of England called One Dimension was not at the top of her hero list.
After lunch, we had the photo of her with the congressman developed and bought frames to put all of her souvenirs in. She planned to take them to school, so I wanted to make sure they would stay together and secure. She will keep these mementos for the rest of her life.
With her zest for learning, she was on the Internet that afternoon researching why the flag on a uniform is backwards. She wanted to be able to explain it to her classmates. I expect that this kind gesture will continue to pay dividends well into the future. You just never know when a small act will pay off big.
Knowing that, maybe we ought to perform more of them. Of course, it helps if you’re a 2-star general and a congressman. That gives you a leg up. But anyone can make the world brighter for someone. What’s that saying? To the world, you are one person, but to one person, you’re the world. So, if you want to change the world, I guess that means you’d start with yourself?
And if you want to be the world to that one person, I reckon you’d need to plan it. Get it? Plan-it. Planet. Inside, you’re laughing right now. I know it.
(c) Copyright 2013 by David Porter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I was only a year older than Kelsey when my teacher, Lynn Statzer, put something I wrote in the school newspaper, which was my first taste of publication. It’s the spark that lit me on fire. Rest in peace, Mrs. Statzer.