The volume and variety of sentiments regarding Memorial Day and honoring its true meaning felt significantly increased this year. Actually, there seems to be heightened intensity of focus on appropriate observance of and acceptable behavior on most holidays. I hope that this is largely because people are more thoughtful in what they say and do, choosing to speak mindfully, with consideration to the potential diversity of feelings and beliefs in their community rather than just blindly following tradition. Some sentiments, however, seemed rooted in a desire for controversy or carry an element of hostility that seeks to divide and, to me at least, seem out of place, especially on Memorial Day. Being relatively (okay, drastically) conflict averse I considered for a moment simply not commenting on the day, but avoidance felt empty. Considering the degree of sacrifice represented by those we are meant to honor on this day, the purposelessness of silence seemed incongruent.
I cannot pretend to understand the experience of those who have been on active duty and witnessed firsthand the atrocities of war; who have lost limb, life or love while serving their country. Nor can I imagine the devastation for those rendered childless, widowed or orphaned by the casualties of war with pain tempered to a degree by the pride in the honorable service of their loved one. The greatest respect I can offer is to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifice of those who serve, recognize the drastic shift of course for those left behind and appreciate the gravity of loss of young life with tremendous potential.
CrossFit is known for Hero WODs (workout of the day) – honoring fallen soldiers – sharing their picture, telling their story, recognizing their family and preserving their memory by establishing a workout specific to each particular Hero. Whenever a Hero WOD is posted, the CrossFit community is urged to give their all in the exercise with respect to all that was given by that Hero and the comments that usually reflect time/weight/reps on the website are filled with gratitude, memories and sentiments for the families. Memorial Day = “Murph” in the CrossFit world, and to that end I made my way through 1 mile of running, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and another mile running. It took about 40 minutes. It was physically challenging, but as I completed laps around the soccer field while my family played, under the warm sun of a late May day, it was unexpectedly tranquil. I felt peace. And I thought of the sentiment with which we often close a condolence – Rest in Peace. I was struck by what these Heroes are truly fighting for and that perhaps the greatest respect we can offer is to honor their efforts and Live in Peace.
With that shift in awareness, I turned to the words of one who walks the path of harmony, recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, Jimmy Carter and hope we can see in his citations a path for peace – encouragement to influence nonviolently, to battle for justice without wounding, to seek community and honor the fallen heroes by preventing future loss.
“War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.”
How can we advocate for fair and safe treatment for the children in our communities?
“We cannot be both the world’s leading champion of peace and the world’s leading supplier of the weapons of war.”
How are we promoting nonviolence in our local environment? Are we able to resolve conflict rather than take up arms?
“We know that a peaceful world cannot long exist one third rich and two thirds hungry.”
How are we addressing disparity in our city/state/nation? Do we recognize that poverty contributes to conflict? What can be done to create meaningful opportunity through education, relationships and cooperation for the impoverished to make gains through societal contribution and break through?
“America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, human rights invented America.”
Do we recognize the rarities in freedom and opportunity we experience in our country? Are we acting as responsible role models locally and globally?
“I have one life and one change to make it count for something. My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”
There is always something we can do. There is no act too small- and the act of omission can have the greatest negative consequence. Though many may look back on Jimmy Carter as a failed President, none can deny that he has worked tirelessly in the many decades since to effect positive change in the world and is a living example of endless learning, dynamic belief and simply staying in the game. May we, too, continue to recognize that our abilities can and should be used for the greater good.
One year from now I will complete the same 1 mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 squats and another mile run, in less than 40 minutes if I am honoring the personal challenge to give more. Murph is gone but not forgotten and in remembering, I hope that in a year’s time there will be fewer Heroes to honor with a WOD, fewer funerals and more reunions for the families of soldiers and that the only increase related to Memorial Day will be the acts of peace locally, nationally and globally truly honoring the sacrifice of the fallen.