I love airports. I really do. I love the excitement of going someplace new, or better yet, returning home. It is one of the few places where everyone is there for a specific reason, with a destination and goal.

Fortunately, I get to spend a lot of time in airports because of my travel schedule for speaking. But recently I took a very rare trip, a pleasure trip (I feel guilty even saying it), with my second-to-oldest daughter. It was a special mother-daughter bonding experience, where we flew to California to spend time with close friends and visit the happiest place on earth—yes oh yes, Disneyland. (Undoubtedly, you will be hearing more about this.)

Every time I pass a man or woman in uniform, I am humbledAnd even though we went in November, we were blessed with an early Chanukah present. No, not the trip, which most definitely counts for an enormous gift in its own right. But a true present. The present of being present for a moving, beautiful, powerful experience of gratitude and appreciation. A present that really is what Chanukah is all about. Acknowledgement.

Now, I don’t know about you, but every time I pass a man or woman in uniform, I am humbled. Having lived in Israel for many years, seeing soldiers was a constant source of pride and awareness that these men and women were dedicating their young lives to help keep mine safe. Since in the States, where I now live, the site of a soldier in uniform is pretty rare, now when I see a soldier I am filled with emotion.

And it was no different when we went to our gate and found ourselves sitting next to an airman in the United States Air Force. Not sure what to say, I awkwardly thanked him for his service. And then, being the nosy person that I am, I asked him some more questions. Where was he stationed? Where was he going? How much longer did he have to serve?

Turns out he was on his way to New Jersey for a month of training before leaving for Afghanistan. Turns out this is his last tour of duty, and G‑d willing, he will return safe and sound in six months. Turns out he doesn’t have much family other than a brother and sister-in-law, also in the service, who are due with their first baby in a few weeks. And he won’t be there.

As we spoke, another passenger approached, stated he was heading to Starbucks, and asked the soldier if he wanted anything. He politely declined. Moments later, another traveler sat next to the soldier. And a repeat of my very questions from his end ensued.

And then, what happened next blew my mind.

The guy nonchalantly asked him where he was sitting. He pulled out his boarding pass to check. Without skipping a beat, the guy says, “Here, why don’t we switch,” and proceeds to hand him his first-class ticket.

Now remember, this is a red-eye flight. You know, the one that leaves at 10 PM and gets in at 6 AM? A mid-workweek flight, getting my fellow travelers to Philadelphia just in time for a full workday? Yeah, that one. And yet, without the least hesitation, he handed over his first-class ticket to sit as a sardine with the rest of the packed flight.

Now, what moved me was not just the generosity of his act, but the immediacy of it. The fact that it came so naturally. As if it was no big deal. More so, with the air of “how could he not?” A soldier. Someone dedicating his life for ours. Someone sacrificing. Who better to sit in first class? Who more deserving?

We had just witnessed an act of selflessness presented to the selflessMy daughter and I sat there with tears in our eyes. We had just witnessed an act of selflessness presented to the selfless. An act of acknowledgement and awareness and gratitude.

As we head into Chanukah, this is the gift I am giving my children. I want them to have the ability to recognize the blessings in their lives and to be able to offer their thanks to those around them. In our home, we don’t give gifts on Chanukah. (Don’t feel bad for my children; I assure you they get plenty at other times in the year.) We don’t give gifts, for the gift of Chanukah is the gift. Recognizing that we were saved, that the few overcame the many, that just a little bit of oil and light can last and outshine so much darkness—that is the gift of Chanukah. Seeing the miracles in our lives is the gift.

We live in a world where so much of our daily news is about the negative, the evil in our midst. But Chanukah is the time when we stop, when we not only bring light into our homes, but illuminate the world around us as well. We add in this light, night by night, increasing our awareness with each wick. And as we watch our dancing flames, we say the blessing to witness the miracles all around us, and even more so, the miracles within each and every one of us.

I doubt that this man had any idea how moved the soldier was by his action. He certainly had no idea how much he moved me and my daughter. He simply did the right thing at the right time. And that simplicity was what was so powerful. He added a bit of light to the darkness. And he ignited flames that will continue to illuminate and light others.

(And I wish he could only know the impression he made, because later we saw him on the plane. He was stuck in a middle seat near a crying baby!)