On Veteran’s Day, our nation pauses to appreciate bravery, selflessness and those who’ve been fierce advocates for our freedom, by choice or destiny.
It’s got me thinking:
I grew up in an extremely liberal house where opposing war and violence of any kind was expected. I was encouraged to choose passive ways to heal things and taught that it was always better to be kind than right.
When Ronald Reagan ran for President, my dad paid me a buck per sign to steal them out of people’s yards and my mom stood on the corner of Haight and Ashbury in 1969, I didn’t question this. It’s hard to question peace.
However, as an adult, I find myself less and less sure about it. Do I want peace? Of course. Do I want war? Of course not. But do I want my freedom—hell, yes. Do I want to feel safe? Yes. Do I believe that peace solves all problems? No.
The more I understand this world and recognize the struggles that are our constant reality, I’m often at a total loss. I can’t form hard and fast positions anymore—I tend to stand in the middle and wonder what to do. I find myself confused and compassionate and understanding, realizing no right answer probably exists.
So I’m left to wonder, on this Veteran’s day, what should I do? I’m asking myself, how can I dedicate my life and be in service just like our service men and women?
Can I pick up a gun and go to war? No.
Can I be a fierce advocate for our nation and world, can I be in service to humanity? Yes
I can’t make the world peaceful, but I can walk through this day in peace and I can maintain a core commitment to live in peace, operate in peace and treat each person with kindness and respect that yields a peaceful exchange. I can’t feed the world, but I sure can feed myself and my family and maybe even my neighbor. I can help build a homeless shelter in my town and I can serve at the food pantry in the middle of the night when they struggle the most to find people to fill the shifts.
I can’t make everyone well, but I can take excellent care of my body and mind so that I’m as capable as possible for serving others. I can help deliver medical supplies to those in critical need and I can be an advocate for healthcare being a universal right.
I can’t make the whole world beautiful, but I can make my corner of it beautiful and inspire others with the outcome. I can redefine what beautiful is and help spread the word that enough is enough, often less is more and be an advocate for finding the beauty in all things.
I can’t help everyone I meet, but I can certainly be kind to everyone I meet, regardless of personality or position. I can stand for equality in every walk of life.
I can’t protect the world, but I can understand what causes violence and work to eradicate the roots.
I can make sure that violent video games aren’t in my home or my kid’s school. I can turn the television off when it continues to try to make me immune to horror and I can make sure that my core values are clear and honored.
I can’t stop people like Osama bin Laden, but I can try to use fewer resources so that instead of creating hate, perhaps we can dig some wells and let people taste fresh water. I can’t stop the craziness of this world, but I can diligently focus within myself to ensure I’m as kind as possible, as clear and centered as possible and living the most compassionate life I know how.
I can’t make a giant impact in this world without first making an impact within myself and for me that starts with sincere gratitude for all the people who’ve been in the Service and those of us who are in service.
To all, I bow.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman