May 2007 – Memorial Day
Hello Families and Friends!
Spring has passed quickly as we move from May to June, and before we know it the kids will be out on summer break. Hope your Memorial Day was a good one.
My family traveled to Rehoboth Beach for Memorial Day Weekend and to visit with my father. We had beautiful weather and a great time. On Monday, Memorial Day, my father, husband and son proudly displayed US flags. What I noticed is his house was one of the only in the private community with flags. I went to the boardwalk and the beach. I watched as dolphins frolicked in the waves. I practiced one of the HeARTs mindful tools for relaxation and reflection. As I walked back, I noticed the Lifeguard headquarters had a quickly written note on the whiteboard listing the date and temperature. It read: “Never forget...” Ah yes, it is Memorial Day I thought to myself. As I walked, I met the priest of the local parish with whom I am friends. He remarked he wished he had a church service for Memorial Day but was told no one would come - they want the beach. We realized many parades that usually happen were not this year. And other than sales circulars, there seemed to be a disconnect as to why we have the holiday. I told him about the sign, Never Forget. His response struck me, “ Yes, let’s not forget, but let’s not do anything to observe either.”
Given my pondering nature, I walked on and wondered what did it mean to observe Memorial Day. If you are a veteran it is quite clear. If you are a supporter of the current Iraq situation and/or have friends or family serving, it is clear. I read an article after that which stated many observances were low key this year due to the almost hostile feeling many Americans have about the current political and war state we are in.
Memorial Day was first officially observed May 30, 1868 and it is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. It is generally about war. It is solemn, and yet, evokes pride in those who value the heroic acts of giving one’s life.
How not to forget...is to observe...to honor. To name those who have fallen for others. To lift up the heroes.
Despite the global political arena, war is not what Americans are known for - it is service. When I took a week long Autism class in New England, there were Europeans and several other countries represented. Part of the program was based on recruiting volunteers to assist in a home based therapy program. The people from outside the US laughed at volunteering. They insisted they must pay for people to help. It became clear that the 10 plus countries present all had an issue with the concept that one could serve another and not be paid. Only the US citizens said it was possible to find volunteers. One participant named it when he said, “Ah yes, you Americans love to serve!” We then concluded service to others is indeed a cultural reality for many in the USA. Even schools now mandate community service. Some of our volunteers for HeARTs come from these programs. Interestingly though, they don’t just serve to get the credit. They actually care. They are committed. Committed to a deeper sense of cause and purpose - aware that to be of a common union means we must work well together for the benefit of the society and planet.
As I watched the beach and the hustle of the people looking for the best spot to sunbathe, I wondered how each of them “observed” the many causes of our times. How many of them give of themselves in amazing ways? Which matters of the heart motivate them to serve, to give of themselves in selfless ways? Of course, some may not, and yet we know, many do give time or money to important causes.
So there was no parade to honor the fallen...no real memorial to those who gave their life while in battle. Hopefully, many of us did pause, or will pause to honor the sacrifice of these men and women. Particularly in these days.
There is another way to observe though. To serve with love and courage in ways which improve the human condition, locally, nationally and globally. We can honor by being persons who genuinely value one another. When we respect the dignity of each other, we can work creatively to find solutions for what ails people and systems. We can share resources in powerful ways instead of citing the limits.
Observing Memorial Day - not ever forgetting - starts with the simple act of gratitude and moves towards action. Maybe future Memorial Days can focus on remembrance and the invitation to serve our nation and mankind in ways that improve the quality of life for all.
Here is a link to an intriguing and inspirational video; www.lightmovie.com. Enjoy the music and message. And take a moment to observe the wonder of you...the hero in you...
Robin V Schwoyer
HeARTs for Autism, Director