It’s Sunday Morning and I’m writing this column from a hotel room in Michigan at 4 a.m. An unexpected and badly timed trip to drive two of my grandchildren back to their mother’s house brought me here. My son couldn’t make the trip himself and so Friday, usually my longest and one of my most hectic workdays preparing Accent for printing, found me instead picking up a rental car and making arrangements to leave early Saturday morning. Oh, the things we do for love — in this case my love for my son and grandchildren!

Before my son’s call to ask me if I would make the trip, I had planned to work over the weekend to get caught up on work and at home. Things hadn’t gone smoothly during the week-and-a-half before. I’d averaged just a few hours sleep each night, lost a day of work having to drive to Knoxville for oral surgery and a host of other disruptions and inconveniences left me behind on work and exhausted. Did I mention tending a sick dog and a goat doe that miscarried? I’m talking feeling like your insides are shaking and wanting to puke exhausted, by the time Friday morning rolled around. The three-and-a-half hours of sleep I got Friday night didn’t do much to improve things.

Saturday morning found me willing myself out of bed to do last minute preps to leave. My original plan included working from home for a couple hours before picking up my grandkids at 6:30 a.m. Didn’t happen. Thank you, Murphy’s law.

I felt uber stressed and my thoughts were, shall we say, rather negative. I stepped into the shower thinking about the unfinished articles and column that hadn’t yet been started, the work on my house that I had planned for the weekend, the hay that had to be bought, the goat shed that is badly in need of mucking out, the fencing that still would not be repaired and the cleaning I needed to do in my house before Heather Sipes got word of its condition and declared it a hazmat emergency.

Then I started to outline this column in my head so I’d at least be able to type out a draft when I got to the hotel at a reasonable time Saturday evening. You already know that didn’t happen but that’s another story or two. What did happen as I thought about patriots — who are they and what do they do? — was that my attitude about my own present circumstances began to shift.

Defining patriots as those who serve in the military, law enforcement, EMS and the fire service, as did those who served on 9/11, some commonalities are hard to miss. Some get up at 2 a.m. to run out the door and drive through a snow storm to fight a house fire or work in the rain to free someone trapped in mangled vehicle and keep them alive long enough to reach a trauma center. Others work long and hard to get drugs off our streets or may respond to a call for help and find themselves facing an angry, desperate person with a gun. Many leave their families and homes, sometimes for many months at a time, and miss holidays, birthdays, births and the like for the sake of the commitment they made to serve.

The list goes on. At least, mine did as I thought about it. No matter how they serve, they are prepared to get up and get at it, not knowing what that day will bring. They face inconveniences and often far worse. They put themselves, and sometimes their families, second. Some make the ultimate sacrifice that we talk about but most of us can barely comprehend.

While interviewing someone for one of this week’s articles, he shared with me that while doing his job in the military, his focus wasn’t on inconveniences, circumstances or sacrifices. He focused, as he put it, on his guys to the left and to the right. He did what needed to be done in the moment for those who needed him.

I’m sure you can see why thinking about patriots changed my attitude about my own circumstances. It took my mind off of how I felt and the what ifs of what might happen if I didn’t get everything done I needed to do and instead put me in a “can do” and “will do” frame of mind. My grandchildren would get to their destination on time. Accent and Monday morning’s Lifestyles page would go out on time without any cuts to the content. It would get done because that’s what had to be done.

Does that make me a patriot? Definitely not. What it does make me is thankful. I’m thankful for the myriad ways I benefit from the service of patriots at all levels of our society. I’m also thankful for their example. By simply doing what they are called to do and being faithful to that commitment, they provide a well of strength, inspiration and resolve that we can all draw from. Whether faced with inconveniences, dangers or even just the pall of boredom that comes from the routine and mundane, we have a higher standard to reach for and an example of how to reach it.

So thank you, patriots, wherever and however you serve. As we approach Patriot Day on Sept. 11, this issue of Accent is dedicated to you.

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