4th of July

Got Gratitude? Take a Number!

“There was this soldier with his wife and young daughter. They were visibly upset.”

I have a long history of wanting the things I do and say preserved…forever. I’ve sent one or two pages from my journal to my children, now adults, of events in their lives. I laminated the pages in the hope they would last a hundred years. 

So I was always amazed at the monks of Tibet and their wisdom in surrendering to impermanence. I’m so far from that wisdom. The monks express it when they paint with sand and create the intricate art of mandalas.That’s their way of writing posts on this Earthbook page that is before us every day.


Google Images

It takes days, sometimes weeks to carefully place the different colored grains of sand in the exact spot to produce a whole circle of beauty. When it is finished it is destroyed in a ritual and the sand returned to flowing water and the Earth. But the expression was from the heart and all who experienced the moment will carry it in their own hearts.

 I know a man who works with sand-art too. His name is Matt Long and he is a sand sculptor. He’s done fine work here in Long Beach and around the globe.

Blog size Matt smilesDSC_0086

 Matt, June, 2010

He also knows his art is temporary and that’s okay with him too. He and the monks bring beauty into the world with their bare hands using the media of Mother Earth. For a short period of time their art exists, it is experienced…and then it is gone. But the experience lives on. The experience, once again was the receiving an expression from the heart.

Blog size Matt and castleIMGP3924


Photos: 9/11/2007 by Lee Winters

You might recall I wrote in my blog post, “THIS, Is What We Do”: thisiswhatwedo, about a Facebook Friend who did some fine work on Earthbook at a restaurant at the holidays. When Matt, the sand sculptor read it he wrote to me about an experience he encountered in Charlotte NC.


When I recognized that the theme of Matt’s message to me was much the same as my Facebook Friend’s I decided to read it aloud so Cheryl could hear it as I read. I soon wished I had not started that task because I did have trouble finishing the words before me, the font got fuzzy somehow.

Here is Matt’s message:

You will love this story. Yes, I have bought several meals for servicemen and women in airports when traveling. Once I bought McDonalds for seven in Dallas and what a great time we had.

But this one time in Charlotte I was eating in the airport restaurant. There was a soldier with his wife and young daughter. They were all visibly upset. It was evident that he was leaving them for a while. I signaled my waiter and said I would like to pick up their tab.

He told me I would have to wait on line as two of his other customers already made the same offer. The waiter told me people bought soldiers meals there regularly. Charlotte like Dallas seems to have a lot of military personel passing through. He said thanks, I said thanks and that it was all good.

But he wasn’t the only waiter and it was clear that other wait staff had similar offers from their customers because a minute or two later the manager steps over to the soldier, puts his hand on his shoulder and says something to the effect of, “Apparently just about everyone here wants to buy this family dinner. And I can’t figure a way to split it all up between you, so they’re not getting a check from us here today! Save your money for the next soldier and the soldier after that!”

There was some applause, and the mom started to cry more, and then the manager and then the whole damn place was crying. When they got up to leave there was more applause and people stood up. Everyone cried some more. It was a moment I’ll never forget.


This was America writing on a page of Earthbook. That transient moment was a poem of action. A poem that filled the air with words of support. A poem of standing and clapping and tears that wrapped around that distressed family like a collective hug.

But it too, was as sand in the wind.

Soon after, the page would be turned… the air would be still…till the next brave family arrived.

But I think each “grain of sand”, whatever its hue, was changed just a bit that day and maybe through Matt…us as well. 

Yes, THIS, indeed, is What We Do. America, a pretty damn good place to live.

Be well,


Related post:https://leebythesea.me/2015/01/26/sniping-at-snipers/

Airport Charlotte flagl                        Charlotte Douglas International Airport by Lisa Marie M.

3 replies »

  1. That’s what I’m talkin’ about! We can’t keep this stuff a secret, known only to ourselves and family. Get it out there, whatever you do on Earthbook. We need to show the world, THIS, is What We Do!
    Thank you, Bernadette
    Be well,


  2. Enjoyed this very much Lee. This past summer on my return trip from Ireland we ran into a hundred or so army soldiers on their way to Afghanistan. At first I pulled out my camera to get a picture of my young daughter and her wide-eyed cousin as I explained to them the sacrifices these young men were making for our freedom and to be sure we thanked them for their service. I did manage to get 2 shots before security put an end to it. I was grateful to get those.

    A short time later we were buying some snacks when 6 or so soldiers got on line behind us. I knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t want to embarrass anyone. So I decided to give the cashier a hundred dollar bill and told her to take out for each of those soldiers as they came to pay. The last one was to get the change and pay for anyone else he chose. I left with my family and headed over to have our breakfast. I didn’t want any thank yous but just wanted them to know there are people behind them and appreciate all they do. It was my pleasure.

    As we were leaving, a single soldier came up to me and said, “Excuse me mame. I believe you bought some of us soldiers some breakfast this morning. Well, on behalf of the group, I would like to thank you for your generosity.” I was a bit taken as I didn’t want to be thanked and thought I was doing it without anyone noticing and in confidence of the cashier. Just then, he shook my hand and directed me to a table. As I turned to look, a group of 12 soldiers were standing and saluting me. I was taken back and nearly broke into tears. The soldier that approached told me how much they all appreciate the breakfast and that the kindness of the American people warms their hearts wherever they go. It was a moment I will remember forever.

    Thanks for bringing the memory to the forefront of my mind once again.

    Bernadette Leccese


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