For the past two years the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, we have sat on bleachers and cheered as high school bands passed by & giant balloons shaped like famous characters crowded the sky. Just when we had perfected the plan for where to park & sit, the parade coordinators changed the route.
Street closures and traffic caused a little strain in our marital communication. Finally we found a parking garage which appeared to be relatively close to our seats. Just like last year I brought blankets to lay down on the bleachers. And just like last year I packed snacks and water for hungry kiddos waiting for the parade to start.
Strapping the Baby Bjorn on Bruce, I awkwardly slipped in Knox. Then in sherpa-like style I carried the diaper bag, snack backpack and three blankets. The boys' appropriate excitement led them to run ahead of us and get too close to the street. Yelling out "STOP! Boys stay on the sidewalk. Slow down!" as blankets slipped from my arms. With each block we walked I felt my attitude slipping. It didn't take much. I was already in a grumpy place, remember?
We arrived at our bleachers a few minutes before the parade started. This was good news considering we had little boys to keep entertained every moment until the first float arrived. But the flip side of arriving so late...packed bleachers. Finding room for a group of 6 adults and 8 children proved to be difficult.
So we spread ourselves out among a section of seats. Price and his buddy chose to sit together. Unfortunately sitting together meant pulling santa hats over their eyes and kicking their legs with excitement. The worst part of their choice...the couple sitting in front of them repeatedly getting kicked in the bottom by two silly, squirmy boys.
In apologizing for the boys and moving them down a few rows (with more "leg" room), I started chatting with the "kicking" victim. One conversational topic led to another. That's when she pointed out the people in the bleachers across the street from us. In my flustered state I hadn't yet noticed they were all wearing the same shirt, just in different colors.
"They are with the Snowball Express program. Children (and their parents) who lost a loved one in military service were flown here for free by American Airlines for fun weekend...Six Flags Amusement Park, Fort Worth Stockyards, and the parade."
My mouth gaped open in disbelief..."All those people lost a family member in military action?"
I found this news story:
"The Snowball Express is in the air, making the holidays brighter for military families who have lost loved ones in the War on Terror. 1700 children and spouses of fallen military heroes are being flown to Dallas/Fort Worth. ...American Airlines flight crews are donating their time to make the trip possible."
While complaining about inconvenient parking, over-crowded bleachers, sweating from the blankets I had carried in 80 degree weather, I looked across at the sea of faces who have a legitimate right to complain. In that moment the parade took on a whole new meaning.
I stood with them saluting the flag. A symbol of what their loved one died to protect. Freedom to attend a parade in Dallas, Texas in the United States of America.
I cheered when they cheered for balloon carriers to spin the balloons. I wanted a good show more badly than ever...for them. Thank you Dallas Tap Dazzlers in sparkling costumes & cowboy hats for kicking your 65-year-old legs and amazing us with your energy & joy.
The biggest cheers came not for the Nickelodeon superstar or Batman, but for the Navy Seals marching with the "Carry the Load" organization. Created by two Navy Seals as a way to remember our veterans in a tangible way on Memorial Day. "It’s a life-changing journey for participants as they walk or run as long as they can in the 20-hour period (carrying heavy backpacks) . . . Like the service members they honor, they carry more than they have to, longer than they think they can."
Watching these bleachers full of those left behind, I see the joy on their faces as the "Carry the Load" banner passes. The salutes. The honor.
I had a high school teacher who once told me, "You never know the burden someone else is carrying."
Focused on my comfort & convenience I never would have considered such enormous pain & suffering could exist in those sitting just across the street from me at a Christmas parade. Someone pointed it out to me. It was an intentional choice to see them.
This Christmas season I have the opportunity to "bump" into a lot of new people/strangers. At the post office. Toys 'R Us. The craft store. The grocery store. Visiting Santa. I want to try to stop and consider life from their perspective.
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2
If the Starbucks barista doesn't give me eye contact & seems to need a strong cup of coffee, I don't want to take it personally. I hope to pray for her (in the quiet of my mind). While checking out at the grocery store, I don't want to just scroll through Facebook on my phone. But to look at the face of the cashier and ask him/her about a favorite Christmas memory or how he/she will spend the holidays.
In replacing "me" with "He", I must consider the burdens of others. To see them the way God sees them.
What burden are you carrying today? Share below so I can pray for you (or feel free to email me: GodCenteredMom@gmail.com)
Check out the "Light 'em Up" website. 100 ideas for random acts of kindness this holiday season. love it!