A simple "thank you" will do. A nation of drama queens and kings enjoys a parade or a banquet or a star-studded gala. Since most of us can't actually command that kind of display, we'll just let Monday pass without even a small expression of gratitude. Words seem so puny compared to the sacrifices many of our veterans have made in service of their country. But, the truth is, a simple "thank you" to a veteran, that is, to any veteran, will most likely make someones day.
Now, if you want to be a little more extravagant, you can certainly express thanks in many more ways. Last year a friend of mine went to Starbucks, gave the nice person behind the counter $100, and told her to give an anonymous free coffee to every person who acknowledged being a veteran. Nice. Another person I heard about went to Cracker Barrel and bought breakfast for every person in uniform at that hour. In Charleston, a military town, there were a few. Someone else distributed hand-signed thank you cards to people who identified themselves as having served our country. And, on and on.
But, last year, I left my ideation strength in bed that morning and couldn't think of anything clever to express my appreciation for the veterans on their day. So, I decided to ask people through the day if they had served, when they had served, and in which branch of the service they had served. To each I said simply, "thank you". I cannot tell you how much they seemed to have been touched by such a simple yet heartfelt gesture. Sometimes in our desire to do something nice, we overlook the obvious. Saying thanks is strong.
It's symptomatic of a consumer culture: words are cheap. The refrain today is "show me the money". Goods and services are the bottom line that speak loudest. So, every expression of good wishes, gratitude, happy birthday, happy anniversary or any other kindness must be converted to a tangible gesture, something more concrete than simple words. And, that is a shame. Can it be that we have cheapened our words to the point that they mean so little?
As a believer, I must understand the delicate tension between words and actions, the interplay of gracious language supported by acts of kindness. Scripture acknowledges the value of redemptive talk, well chosen words to express our deepest emotions and feelings. Here's somewhat of a dilemma. You see, you can put a monetary value on just about every tangible good or service. So, there's a worth issue here, the cost of a gift or acknowledgement. Yet, words of gratitude, a note of appreciation, a simple shared thought cannot always be appraised. Unless, of course, the culture says words hold no value whatsoever.
Paul wrote, "Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person" (Colossians 4:6). Earlier Solomon said, "A man will be satisfied with good by the words of his mouth, and the works of man's hands will reward him" (Proverbs 12:14). Over and over Scripture warns of the mis-use of words, the treachery of misspoken words. Again, "Pleasant words are a honey- comb; sweet to the taste, and health to the body" (Proverbs 16:24). Righteous living involves the maturity to express genuine sentiments in the simple manner of words.
So, veterans, including our active duty personnel today, thank you.