Sometimes it takes a stranger

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- It was cold that day when I was about to leave the base after a long day's work. Actually that afternoon, it was windy enough to warrant one of those pop-up computer alerts, and there was a rain-ice mix in the forecast. 

It reminded me of a scene from the movie, "Forest Gump," where he described the rain as "side-ways rain," for the sleet seemed to be pummeling through base at an angle. 

In my vehicle, I was anxiously waiting to make a right turn towards the main gate in my continued haste to get home, when I saw two young men trying their best to endure the sudden onslaught of sleet. One was wearing a sweat jacket with a hood and the other only a thick sweater. 

As my time came up to make the turn, I uttered to myself, "Aw, those poor guys, I bet they're walking all the way to the dorms in this 'yucky' weather." 

And, then I turned towards home. 

It wasn't long before I realized I made a mistake. I thought to myself, "Did I truly just attempt to emit pity and drive away?" 

I couldn't find a place to turn around fast enough. Even though, there was a chance I wouldn't be able to find them; they might have taken a short cut through some buildings. 

The immense guilt I felt fueled my desire to change the situation and eradicate my behavior, especially since it was the holiday season. 

As I approached the two, I managed to pull over and ask them if they needed a ride. And, although I was a stranger, they were miserably wet and anxiously replied with, "That would be great, thank you." 

I was right. They were going to the dorms, which is not so far by car, but quite a trek when you're walking with bags in freezing wet temperatures. 

In an attempt to make small talk, I asked them where they were from. Pride of their hometowns exuded. I secretly smiled as I remembered how I used to talk like that - so long ago, so new from the nest. 

Come to find out, one of the Airmen had only been on base about a week, and the other had arrived just the day before. 

And amazingly, within that short amount of time, they eluded to having heard some things about being stationed here - some good, some not so much. 

It was that very moment, when I wished the trip to the dorms was much longer. I wanted to share with them the many opportunities they had before them. I wanted to dispel any wrong reportings; I wanted tell them why Dover Air Force Base was chosen as the best base in the Air Force. Above all, I wanted to mentor them. 

But, we had reached the dorms, and it was time for us to part ways. I bid farewell and wished them well. 

As I drove away, all I could think of was, "I should've told them this, I should've said that; and, I wish I would've told them how to reach me in case they had any questions. 

I missed that opportunity; however, it did motivate me to be more in tune for the next moment. It took those two strangers to make me realize the positive impact that I could have on other people's lives. 

While I saved them from a brief encounter with mother nature, they saved me from complacency. I am now recharged and ready to mentor junior ranking Airmen, despite how short the encounter.

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