As a child, I was taught the Magic Words “please and thank you.” Whether it was because my mother drove it onto me so much at such a young age, or that it’s just a trait I inherited from her, I get a little over-enthusiastic about the whole thing. I can never seem to just say “Thank You.” Something inside of me starts to gush and bubble, and I just keep going until I begin to make a spectacle of myself. And that’s just the warm up for every day, run-of-the-mill stuff. You should see the show when it’s a really big over-the-top thing!
As I even start thinking about Memorial Day, I just about burst into tears. As the mother of two Veterans (one of Desert Storm and the other Iraqi Freedom, both USAF…see photo) and as the daughter of a USAF Korean War Vet, my heart is eternally grateful for the service and sacrifice men and women like them give our country. And I am also grateful for their spouses who so diligently keep the home fires burning in their absence.
But all that is really more about Veteran’s Day.
Memorial Day is the time we memorialize those men and women who are no longer here for us to thank. My heart aches for them. And even as I am writing this, I get a lump in my throat. I think of those men and women who laid down their lives to not only protect my freedom and way of life, but also to protect basic human rights in other countries. It’s humbling beyond words to think about their ultimate sacrifice.
But it gets worse. When I think of the families of those men and women left behind, I am overwhelmed with grief and empathy. When I see Gold Star families on TV being interviewed, I am overcome with emotion. I freeze up. I look at the photos of my children, dressed in their battle fatigues, and I think, “there but for the grace of God go I,” and, I find it hard to even breathe. As difficult as it is, I pray that I will never become callus to such scenes… and that I will always remember and never forget.
Despite the political antics and the craziness going on between our elected officials, I am so proud to be an American. I am thankful my ancestors immigrated here from Europe under great hardship to create a new life for themselves and their children. They brought all that was good with them and embraced their new country, served in the military and helped preserve our freedom. Today I am blessed beyond measure to live in the greatest country in the world. As Lee Greenwood says in his anthem to freedom “… I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me.”
Even as I write this post and speak of gratitude and thankfulness, my mind wanders and I think of how we might teach this concept to our children and grandchildren. The overused phrase, “Gratitude is an Attitude,” comes to my mind, but it really doesn’t light me up. Yes, I get it. I get the cute little play on words and how important it is to always reflect gratitude in our lives. But if we are going to play with words (and y’all know messing with words is just about my very favorite thing to do in the history of forever), I think we need to figure out a better way to mess with the word “gratitude.” I propose we grab hold of this word, slap it on our hearts with some sparkly glitter glue and declare to the world that we are making it a verb — a word of action — a physical show of good works. Because gratitude without action is, well, just words.
So what does that mean? How do we show gratitude? With everyone having different talents and abilities the options are endless. If you have the means to financially donate, then put your money where your mouth is. Don’t just drop spare change tin can to support a local Gold Star family or disabled vets, – dig deep into your pocket pop in a twenty! And if you have more time than money, then get up off the couch and go volunteer. If you are physically and financially not in a position to do either, then get creative. Take a moment of your day to not just verbally say the word “thanks” to someone in uniform, but get a paper and pen out and write a note to one of our soldiers. Thank them, not only for the service provided, but for the meaning they add to your life. With simple actions you can change the energy of the world around you.
Join me! Vow to not only express gratitude but to actively show it through volunteerism, financial support and political activity. Make sure those voices which can no longer be heard have the ear of politicians in making policy to support those left behind. And by all means, vote. I don’t care which side of the fence you are one, be informed, learn the issue and vote your conscience.
You will not only make a difference in their lives but in your own as well.