Wichita Revelation

While on business travel, I was flying out of Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita, Kansas. My flight back home to Atlanta was delayed by almost two hours. These are the occasional pitfalls one encounters when you are a frequent flyer. This small airport in the mid-west seemed more energized than it would be on a usual day. Today was not a usual day. Wichita is home to Wichita State University. The school’s basketball team has made it to the Final Four tournament of college basketball being played in Atlanta this year. As I sit in the gate area, it’s interesting to witness the excitement that permeates the airport. Groups of people clad in their finest school colors of black and yellow huddle together laughing and smiling about their team and their trip to Atlanta. For me, I just want to get home, but I cannot be unmoved by the flurry of energy and pride these people have for their team, their school and their city.
Moments like this are few and far between and that significance is not lost on the people from this city on the plains of Kansas. As I was going through security, I had to ask one of the locals what exactly was the mascot of the team. The mascot is called a “Shocker”. I continued my query and said, “Just what exactly is a Shocker?” I was informed that a “Shocker” was the person who used to gather the wheat stalks together in bundles. An appropriate mascot for a school seated firmly in the wheat belt of Kansas.
Surprisingly, most of the people waiting to fly to Atlanta for the games were couples ranging from ages 40 and up. I was expecting to see many more college age people going, but maybe they had already gone ahead.
As I was sitting at my gate, I could see people coming up the ramp from security. One couple caught my attention more than the others. They were probably the oldest fans I had seen come up the ramp way, but they were by no means, any less excited than any of the younger fans. The older gentleman was clad in a bright yellow shirt which was covered by his black and yellow team jacket. His wife was just as excited but was moving a little more slowly as she was using a walker to make her way along the ramp. I could also see the clear tubing of a portable oxygen tank in the basket of her walker. Her husband went forward and turned around and she took her cell phone out and snapped his picture. One of their friends took the phone and the husband and wife stood for a picture of themselves together. They then shared a small kiss. I don’t care who you are, if that doesn’t warm your heart, I don’t know of anything that would. I would be further endeared to this couple later when I saw them sitting together sharing a sandwich at an eatery along the gate area. A young Air Force sergeant in his uniform was standing in line to eat as well and the elderly couple pulled out a twenty-dollar bill and gave it to the young sergeant and said, ” Thank you for your service. Please have lunch on us.” The sergeant graciously accepted their generous gesture and thanked them for his lunch. Witnessing these events helped to soothe my anxiety about my flight being delayed. I felt as if I had been given an incredible gift by what I saw take place between unknown travelers. It also gave me a warm feeling about our people, our culture as Americans and our way of life. I hope we never lose that, for if we do, we would have lost one of the most important virtues of who we are as a people. Sitting in a small airport in the midwest, my spirit was reinforced and I saw the meaning of what we are all about as American’s. Go Shocker’s !

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