A couple months ago I was at the post office with my 3-year-old. Behind us in line was a soldier in uniform, and my son was very interested in him.
We were leaving the post office at the same time as this man, and he could see that my son was interested in him and his uniform. He stopped to say hi and "give me five!"
For some reason I am always too shy to thank a soldier in uniform, even though I think I should every time I see one (which happens a lot, because we live near a military base). But I didn't want to let the opportunity pass, so I asked my son to "Tell him thank you." It was my passive way to get the message to this man without having to say it directly to him myself (which I know is silly, but it's true).
When I asked my son to "tell him thank you," he looked up at me confused and said, "What did he give me?"
I almost started crying right there in the post office, as I considered the question and how I would answer it. I told him I would explain in the car (so I wouldn't cry in front of all the other post office patrons).
In my life, I have been fairly disconnected from the reality of the military and the sacrifices that people make. My father was in the Army before I was born, and I've always been proud of that. Many of my uncles have served in the military, some fighting in wars. I know those stories, but they happened a long time before I was born. So I can honestly say that my son's question, "What did he give me?" made me feel feelings of gratitude for those men and women in a way I hadn't before.
When we got to the car I told him something along the lines of, "We want to thank that man because he keeps us safe, and sometimes he's not safe while he's keeping us safe."
I thought about the courage it would take to know that someday you might have to go to a dangerous place where you might have your life on the line. I thought about wives and children, mothers and fathers who say goodbye, hoping and praying for their loved one's safe return. I've never been a part of that group, and I am so thankful for all of those people.