It’s Memorial Day. That statement elicits a multitude of meanings and implications:
- The potato salad is made
- The ribs are marinating
- The watermelon is chilling
- It’s time to dig out the white shoes and clothes because since I don’t live in a tropical climate it is only now “legal” to wear them until Labor Day
- The current method of greeting friends and neighbors in my beach town is to whisper in hushed tones of “they’re back.”
- Loud whoo-oops of “Yahoo!!” as favorite seafood restaurants and ice cream stands reawaken after a dormant winter
- There is a parade in town today
- If one is still in the winter doldrums, it’s time to “Get Over It!!”
- Most importantly, it is time to pause, and in quiet reverence, remember those who have fought to preserve, protect and defend the freedoms we too often take for granted
That reverent reflection leads to one of my “deep questions” du jour for pondering. What do I believe in enough to defend, to the death if necessary?
When I think about people I would classify as heroes I realize one thing they all have in common is the fact that they all have a deep abiding belief in a set of principles that causes them to invest everything they have in what they define as “the right thing to do.” They do it not for notoriety, but because it makes the world a better place. I’ve often wondered where the source of defending “what is right” originates. Is it learned from parents and caregivers? Can it be learned from role models? How can that level of integrity and commitment to being a light bearer for a belief system be nurtured?
The founding fathers of our country went against the norms of society. They dared to believe that loftier ideals of who we are as a nation would take time and effort, but are attainable. I lived through the civil rights movement and watched such groups as the Freedom Riders (who just celebrated the 50th anniversary of their mission) risk their lives to make us a better and more unified nation. The struggle has been long and slow and progress is still being made.
Inventors and artists and others who challenge our belief systems about what is possible and what is just and fair and “right” have an admirable level of integrity. They are authentic souls. Authenticity, I believe, is not a matter of just “doing your own thing” or expressing your opinion. To me, authenticity requires publicly living your beliefs through thought, word and action when to do so would bring a risk of alienation. It is living with a set of beliefs that go so deep to the core of your being that the preservation and implementation of those beliefs becomes a driving life mission.
On this Memorial Day, I applaud all who have taken imagined dreams and taken the steps to make them reality. I applaud all who have embraced those dreams and joined the cause of redefining normal. I applaud all who have fought the battles against hatred, bigotry, alienation and failure to look around you and say “I see you. I hear what you are saying and see what you need” to others. They are all heroes who use their thoughts, words and actions to make the world better for all of us.
I think we should change the name back to Day of Remembrance lest we picture too many hot dogs and burgers and white shoes and lose sight of the real message of Remembrance. What do you believe strongly enough to defend with your life?