As we stood in line, some fool stood up on the long picnic table bench and addressed everyone in the restaurant. He introduced those sitting to his left and to his right, a cohort of US & UK disabled veterans who were ruck marching 1,000 miles of trip across the United States. They were raising awareness for veteran's mental health and benefits. They started in Los Angeles. We caught them near Baltimore. The next day, they would march their last 29 miles into New York City to complete their journey at the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial.
As we sat outside, a bit more than half through our meal, one of the cohort approached us. He introduced himself, told his story, told the team's story, and so forth. My wife and I are veterans, so we spoke the language and had plenty of questions. My son sat politely and entertained the few pleasantries that came his way. A bit later, the fellow returned with the entire crew for more conversation and photos. A few days later in their social media postings they mentioned the honor of meeting my son, reminding him to stay strong. Soon afterward were the pictures with VP Biden and his wife, Dr. Biden, and Prince Harry -- their US & UK sponsors.
So, what happened?
I had one young fellow -- born when I was graduating high school -- telling me his story of homelessness, hardships, PTSD, suicide attempts, and so forth. He reminded me of the number of veterans who kill themselves every day. He told me what he owed personally to this organization as they had ultimately saved him. Another from the cohort put his hands together, bowed, met my eyes with a smile, and welcomed me home. I saw the randomness of the encounter -- how even our driving in circles, unable to pick a restaurant, conspired to create that moment -- and I felt the different messages resonating within me.
Clearly the cohort found something in meeting my son, sitting in his wheelchair, enjoying his BBQ chicken. He hardly had to say a word, let alone make a speech -- they saw what they needed to see too.
And to others, there was a photo opportunity. To the business owner sponsoring the journey, maybe there was a reaffirmation of the business' mission. Who knows? There was a deeply personal reminder that our individual experiences of any encounter are deeply and personally our own -- and maybe that every moment, however mundane, is precisely like this.
... and when I posted the picture and some brief thoughts to my own timeline, a friend commented "I love it!"
In other news, this site's domain renewal is coming up again as it does every year. Grandfathered with the initial blogger rates, it's only $10 per year... but this year, keeping it alive feels more like a work of vanity than anything else. There are notions I've wanted to convey or to pass on -- but I'm reminded that even "one mind sharing one mind" is subject to individual interpretation.
Maybe we do all suffer alone...
... just maybe not in the way any one of us thinks.