I cannot think of any more incredible honor for men or women than to lay their life down for the better good of each other, our country, and the freedom it stands for.
I’ve been trying to honor the meaning of Memorial Day this weekend in my post these last few days. It’s hard to write about something you have never experienced. But I am a mother of a son, a mother-in-law, a grandparent, a sister, cousin, daughter, and friend of many who have served our country. I know what it’s like to worry about them being in harm’s way. I can only imagine the heartfelt pain of losing anyone of them. But the memorial is not about the living. It is a day for honoring, morning and celebrating the people who’ve died while fighting to keep us safe.
Reflection: Franklin D. Roosevelt put the value of Memorial Day into perspective when he said, “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.” Today in every way, I honor those who have given their lives that I might live in peace, safety, and harmony with my fellow Americans.
“No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.” Calvin Coolidge
What does honor mean? The dictionary states that honor, honesty, integrity, sincerity refer to the highest moral principles and the absence of deceit or fraud. Honor denotes a fine sense of, and strict conformity to, what is considered morally right. * 1
What does honor mean in military terms? “Honor is a matter of carrying out, acting, and living the values of respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service, integrity, and personal courage in everything you do.” *2
From the words of one who has served and devoted his life to helping and supporting his fellow veterans’ transition back into civilian life, he says, “Honor goes to those who have given their life for the sake of others. There is a brotherhood of commitment that develops in shared service where you become like a family. A family that would do anything to protect one another.”
“It sounds a lot like the parent who would run out in front of a car to save their child,” I said.
“It is,” he said. “The true heroes are the ones who live up to that honor.”
Reflection: He also made a point to say as we honor our fallen brothers and sisters by remembering that they gave their lives that we may live ours. So as we celebrate and honor them, celebrate with gratitude the life you live because of them.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service of others.” -Mahatma Gandhi 1869
There are many ways to find value in serving. We can be of service to our families, neighbors, communities, and country, to name a few. Life is full of opportunities for us to be of service to one another. It’s about giving of the self without any expectations in return. It’s not just about using our gifts and talents to help others. It’s about the big and little opportunities that open up to us.
They say that the ultimate sacrifice is those who have given their lives in service for the sake of our country, the people, and the freedom that it stands for. That is why we celebrate this Memorial weekend.
For those who served, many wonder why they were able to come back and not their fellow brother. It is something those of us who haven’t served to this capacity will never fully understand the loss they and their families live with every day.
I asked a few people close to me what the value of their military service meant to them. One of my friends who was drafted in 1969 during the Vietnam War said, “I did not believe in the policies of our government at the time, but I did believe in our country, so I went. I was scared to death of leaving home and possibly being maimed or killed, but I would not have been able to live with myself if I hadn’t gone when I was called upon. That is the kind of courage that keeps our country free. If I had to do it all over again, I would. I’d do it right now if called upon, even being much older and more feeble, but the desire to be free in this beautiful country means more to me than the fear of death.
Most of what I learned from others I talked with is that they were proud to serve their county, and they’d do it again if asked. Almost all of them have learned a deeper meaning of service carried through into the various ways they continue to serve their fellow Americans daily.
Reflection: I’ve learned that serving is not about counting how many people you help. The value of serving creates worth in itself that you can’t place a price on. It’s just simply about serving others.
The need for belonging drives us to seek out stable, long-lasting relationships with other people. However, our sense of belonging goes much deeper into our human condition for survival. The movie Cast Away, where Tom Hanks is stranded on an island for years by himself, shows the need for human connection. In his desperation, he begins to talk with a volleyball. Eventually, drawing a face on it and giving it the name Wilson. The imaginary friendship he forms with Wison keeps him from losing his mind. Our sense of belonging is as essential as the food we need, the air we breathe, and the water we drink to survive. I guess that’s why when we go for a wellness checkup, they ask us questions about our social life, like do we belong to a club, sports team, religious group, or community organization? How often do we get together with friends or talk on the phone with family? Our sense of belonging is as crucial to our health as it is to our happiness.
I have learned in my own experience that belonging doesn’t come to us. We have to make an effort to reach out for it ourselves. One of the hardest things about leaving the church was the community I had with the people. While I remained friends with many of my church people, I no longer had anyone left to share my spiritual growth and experiences with. I prayed that God would bring some like-minded friends into my life, and eventually, I meet a few ladies I call my soul sisters. We’ve been meeting now regularly for over ten years. It’s funny how when you have mindfulness for change, things fall into place in a synchronistic way.
Reflection: One of the most important things about having a good sense of belonging is feeling accepted for who you are and what you have to contribute, offer, and give to the greater good of what you stand for.
We have this precious gift called freedom, not just because we are Americans. It is a gift meant for all human beings. Along with this gift comes choice, responsibility, and attention. While freedom, choice, and responsibility are all qualities to value, paying attention to how we respond to these qualities shows us how much we value the gift they have to offer us.
I have a book called, Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditations for everyday life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Mindfulness teaches us to pay attention to what we are putting our attention on. Whatever we are paying attention to the most, we will find our frame of mind concentrating on whether it’s good or bad.
Today I turned the news on out of habit as I began to prepare my breakfast. The news broadcaster was talking about the mass shooting in California yesterday. I thought, wow, every time I turn the news on, there’s another shooting. The broadcaster pointed out that yesterday’s shooting made 17 mass shootings just this week. This week, not this month or year, but in a week. I couldn’t believe it. Then the newswoman showed a long list of all the ordinary places these mass shootings have taken place over the years. The reality of it hit me, and I thought if I listened to it anymore, I’m going to be too afraid to go to my hair appointment today.
I don’t want to live in fear. I am so working my way out of that negative thinking I needed to pay attention to the good that was all around me. You know there are actually more good people in this world than bad people. That’s where the value of our attention comes into play. I’m not a pacifist who doesn’t care. I’m willing to do my part to make things better. But I sure don’t know what the answer is. The only thing I can do is pray and continue to remind me and others of all the beauty, love, and goodness that still remains behind the scenes of the bad.
Reflection: I don’t know about you but wherever I am, I want to be a light in the darkness.
Unfoldment is described as a gradual development or revelation of something.
It doesn’t take thinking or courage for a rosebud to let go, unfold, and become the blossom it expresses. But sometimes, the condition surrounding the rosebud can stunt its growth. Nature has a way of teaching us how to let go, unfold and blossom into ourselves. While a rosebud doesn’t need the courage to unfold, we humans tend to want to play it safe, tucked tightly together. The unknowns of letting go diving into something different can be too scary. So, we stay tightly tucked within the confines of ourselves and never discover this deeper connection that opens us up to spiritual understanding and expression.
Our spiritual unfoldment will never open until we are courageous enough to look beyond what we already know. How could we ever stop to imagine that this thing we call God, which created everything, could have any limitations? All we have to do is look up at the sky that seems never-ending. It’s a matter of getting past the illusions of our limitations and changing our perspective enough to try and see our way through the discoveries yet to be seen by being in tune with the Infinite and beyond.
Reflection: I was fearful at first to step beyond the veil of the unknown. I discovered that it is fear itself that holds us back. I never leave home without God. God is not just at my side; God is in me as sure as the blood that runs through my veins. God is in all creations…even you.
Ask, and you shall receive, seek, and you shall find, knock, and the door will be open, never stop asking the reason…why. God can’t wait to see what you find.
Can you believe in something without having a reason for that belief? It’s kind of like eating a spoon of sugar. It’s an empty calorie with no added value. There is no value behind your belief without the reason that gives it substance.
When we move on to adulthood, we often carry many of the beliefs our families had. We are faithful to our religion because that’s the way we were brought up. We are Republican or Democratic because that’s what our parents were; we marry the opposite sex because that’s what the Bible tells us to do. When did our two-year-old self stop asking the reason why? Maybe when we were told because that’s the way it is.
I remember coming to this point in my life where I needed to give up several things I was doing at the same time. It was my job, a club I belonged to, and my religion. Three huge things in my life. Why? Because I didn’t know why I was putting so much of myself into each thing. My job was tedious. I joined the club to please someone else. I practiced my religion because that’s what was expected of me. If someone were to ask me a reason why I did any of those things, I had no good reason. I wanted to find myself and be a part of what I did because I believed in what I was doing.
I ask myself now, with each new thing I do or take on, what is the reasoning behind the things I chose? How does it add to the better good? Most of all, am I living my truth, my purpose? Doing this has helped bring meaning into my life.
Reflection: I am grateful for the lessons that lie behind the…why questions; I hope I never stop asking because I’ve learned that reasons add value to what I believe.
* “Generosity is not giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is giving me that which you need more than I do.” – Gibran Khalil
I had to read this quote a few times to get the jest of it. Then I realized how apropos it is to something I recently did that I could not see the value in because I had been more focused on how stressful the generous task had become. Where were the good feelings that usually come from doing something for others? I wondered. Why wasn’t what I was doing gracious enough to overcome the frustration, anger, and irritation building up in me. I wanted to be better than what I was feeling.
* “Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking more than you need.”- Gibran Khalil. It took a few weeks of working through those feelings to see that it wasn’t about me. It was about doing something extraordinary for the people I care for. I chose to do it because I was the only one who could make it happen. I did it knowing it would be stressful and put myself on the back burner so that everyone else could shine.
Reflection: * “Generosity is a value that can be a quality. It’s sharing what we have and what we are.” I am so grateful to finally see the good that came out of the generous thing I helped create for my siblings. And even though it wasn’t about me, I do feel good about the part I played in making it happen.
“The value of words is measured by those who read them.” ~Abigail Roux
Words are the colors I use to paint the picture I am trying to express in writing. However, it’s not an easy task to put into words what our body language can add with facial expressions, sounds, and tone of voice. Still, I find it easier to express myself fully in writing. I can get it all down on paper without the interruption that goes into my thought process. I use my senses to describe things. I’m big on using personal examples, colorful metaphors, and antidotes to create the picture I’m trying to create for the reader.
* “Since each person’s experience is different — and even the words we use often mean something different to other people — misinterpretation is unavoidable, and the writing solution to this is complicated, says Mark Waldman in his article called, Consciousness Is Not A Thing.
Our unique thought patterns see certain words and often miss the colorful meaning surrounding them. We conclude what we are reading based on the way we interpret a few words. You hear through the words what is unique and valuable to you. The value of words is found in what they create for you, what you learn about yourself.
Reflection: What I write is not about me making you think the way I do my words draw my own picture, and I hope that they stir the colors that create your own portrait of life.
“I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.” – Maya Angelou
Advocacy covers a wide range of issues. For the sake of experience here and what I can share on the subject, I choose advocacy to express the importance of being your own advocate in life. As Maya Angelou encourages, “the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side.”
I have a wonderful husband who set out from the beginning of our marriage to give me a more safe and secure life than I had growing up. I’ve had 50 wonderful years with him, way more than the 18 years I had growing up. He is my advocate in every way it’s true, and I am his. Still, we feel this sense of being in control of our own lives. We know each other well; we talk about things that are important to us, we plan, use good judgment, do our research, and use our creative thinking. We are lucky that way, but not everyone has what we do, so being your own advocate is more critical than ever. Having a trusted friend or family member you can trust and rely on is essential. Because in the end, it is your life and your decision that will create the life you want for yourself.
Reflection: I have had the privilege of advocating for others who needed someone to bounce ideas off. Encouraging them to take charge of their own lives has empowered them to create the kind of life they want, and in turn, it has taught me how important it is to be an advocate for myself along with the support of others who care.