Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Trip Home

Two Sundays ago I was in the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, making my way home from the ACFW conference (which, by the way, was an awesome experience). Airports are interesting places, particularly if you like to eavesdrop on people, a trait for which we writers are infamous.

So I'd been sitting in the airport for about an hour, reading Sharon Hinck's The Restorer (which was incredible) when I heard this conversation behind me:

MALE: "Hey, I just wanted to say goodbye to you guys before you left."
OLDER WOMAN: "You're so sweet. How'd the auditions go?"
MALE: "Pretty good. We had a couple thousand people and narrowed it down to a hundred."

Okay, I'll admit, my radar picked up at the word "auditions." Immediately I figure out, based on the amount of people who showed up for audition, that it must have been for American Idol. Now I'm curious, figuring that the man behind me is part of the production staff. So I casually turn around, and there is Ryan Seacrest. Well whatcha know! Then I turned back around and opened my book again. That was fun.

I figured that was the most interesting thing that would happen to me, but I was wrong. My seatmate on the plane turned out to be a 19 year old guy who smuggled in some Popeye's chicken (actually, you're allowed to bring food on the plane, but he wasn't taking any chances, so he kept it stashed in his backpack until we took off). I didn't figure this was a person that was going to want to talk during the trip, which was fine by me, 'cuz I had my book. But again, I was wrong.

Turns out Thomas was on his way to Las Vegas not for vacation, but to meet a buddy and then drive from there to Fort Irwin, near Barstow, California. From there, he was being deployed to Iraq. Thomas has a grandmother in South Carolina. He said that the scariest things in Iraq aren't IEDs, it's the booby traps that are set up where you don't expect them. He said that even though a lot of people don't think we should be in Iraq, he feels it's more important that we fight over there than to let the war come to American soil. He told me a lot of stuff.

As I listened to this young man, who's only 5 years older than my own son, my heart began to ache. I don't want to make a political statement one way or the other, but I think we can all agree that no one likes to send men and women off into such a dangerous situation. But nothing makes it resonate like meeting someone who's going there. Until I talked to Thomas, I had no physical, flesh and blood connection to our troups. Now, after 2 1/2 hours flying from Dallas to Vegas, I do.

Before we got off the plane, I gave Thomas my business card (and assured him that I was old enough to be his mother, just so he wouldn't get scared that I was trying to pick him up!) I told him to send me an email if he ever wanted to talk or if he and his buddies needed prayer. I doubt I'll ever hear from him, even though he put the card in his pocket. But I can still pray for him, and I do.

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