BOSTON (CBS) – So often we are jarred into place and forced to reflect on life and just how rough it can be. When two Boston firefighters die on the job after hugging their loved ones goodbye hours earlier, we come to appreciate, at least for a little while, the incredible dedication and sacrifice men like Ed Walsh and Michael Kennedy do routinely. Most of us have never pulled an alarm or even dialed 9-1-1. Nor do most have a personal connection with these men or others who have done so much to protect the public. But these are losses that really sting and are stark reminders of the fragility and danger in this very challenging world.
Thankfully, there are other reminders; I like to think of them as gentle nudges from above that elicit tears of joy and appreciation. Perhaps in the maelstrom of recent bad news stories you missed this little tale. Allow me to share it with you. Hopefully it will awaken as warm feeling for you as it did me.
A Texas middle school teacher happened to be looking out his classroom window a few weeks back only to see a young groundskeeper, 21-year-old Clayton Allen Jr., doing something rather special. He was standing alone in the school field saluting the American flag while quietly reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Unaware that anyone was watching Clayton performed a ritual he does regularly. He told a local news station that he “feels blessed every day.” And he added, “I’m so thankful for the day and the country I’m in.”
The 7th grade teacher, Garrett Hartman, who was lucky enough to witness this, was able to snap a picture and some video of the young man through the window. Hartman called it a “goose bump moment.” Afterward, Garrett and another teacher rushed outside to meet the young groundskeeper and thank him for his inspiring show of respect. That video quickly got passed around and has gone the viral route. I’m so happy it did because it made my day and convinced me to write about it and share it with you.
Clayton provided a simple sweet reminder that people more often than not are decent and kind, often when no one is watching. And that is I believe the finest definition of character. I know that for our fallen Boston Fire Department heroes and countless friends, neighbors and co-workers, doing the right thing are simply part of their DNA. It’s who they are and how they roll. Clayton’s show of respect is a gentle reminder on a sunny crisp spring day that everything IS going to be OK.