Before you read this blog, read this great article about Ernie Napper and the flag retreat at Disneyland.
You’re going to probably wonder what this post has to do with Veteran’s Day, one of the holidays our family celebrates in our own quiet way. Stick with me for a few minutes.
Wanted to make it to the Petaluma parade today, but have other blogging and writing obligations. I’m a big fan of parades, though. I remember my grandpa riding his horse, Bobbie Rex, in the DAV unit in Fresno.
I also love to look at the cemetery when it’s filled with flags. The sounds of them rustling in the wind makes me cry every time I see/hear it. I heard the rush of acres of flags at a WWII cemetery in Tunisia a few years ago and I had the same reaction then as now. At local celebrations I love watching the older men and women who’ve served this great country get up out of their wheelchairs sometimes to salute. And the motorcycle riders who block the demonstrators with their hateful banners aimed at the families of the fallen, a right of free speech others paid for with blood.
I’m reading a great book, oddly recommended by our Romance Writers of America magazine this month (I know), called Getting More, by Stuart Diamond. It isn’t what you think. It isn’t about winning at all costs, or carving out your piece of the pie. It’s about understanding where you fit in, where you can collaborate, where and why you should connect and give back, sometimes with the ultimate sacrifice. Here’s a great example:
“Too often people think they can meet their goals only at the expense of others…If you meet your goals today at the expense of the long term, you have served yourself poorly. Getting More means meeting your goals for all relevant people and periods…”
He goes on to say, “Once you have identified your goals, it is important to keep asking, ‘Are my actions meeting my goals?’ The world is full of people who fail to do this. They get emotional or distracted or are just not thinking this way. It goes for you and it goes for others you care about.”
The getting emotional part I just cannot contain. Guilty as charged. My grandmother and I used to sit together on her overstuffed couch in the parsonage in Napa and cry during Lassie. That was back in the day when my brother and I would spend part of our summer vacation with them. Sometimes we’d get moved to that couch in the middle of the night if a woman and her children needed a home for the night to get away from an abusive relationship. I thought every family fed homeless people, sent cookies to shut-ins at hospitals, and took in badly battered women and their scared-to death-children. That was what I grew up with.
So why would I focus on goals today when we are celebrating veterans this weekend? Because they blazed the path, paid the sacrifice so we could live lives of meaning and purpose, so we could give back where we can and not worry about what we can’t. So we can say thank you to those that make it their mission in life to serve, with only the minimal recognition we give them. Because that’s not their goal. They don’t need the parades. We do. So we never forget to be grateful.
Sacrifice is never fair. Trust me, having raised 4 children, I’m not always fair, and I used to tell them all the time I would screw up, and did often. But the goal in our family has always been to celebrate life, all forms of life, to treat people with respect, and to work for things worthwhile.
Earl Nightingale used to define success as, “The achievement of a worthwhile goal.” He used to say that, “Successful negotiation is the result of a good presentation.” I think Stuart Diamond would agree with this principle. You have to know what you want to get the things you want out of life. You have to know what people around you want to create, that “clan” of supporters that help you along the way, as you help them. It is in the helping others that you become a better person, which in turns brings more success, and certainly a lot of satisfaction into our lives. And helps us give more.
And there is one other person I check with on a regular basis. The great man upstairs. He’s never given me bad instructions and when I listen, he is patient and wise. I may not be one who is called on to fight on a battlefield, like my imaginary SEALs do, like the men I love so dearly do in the real SEAL community. But my mission in life is to stay aligned with a plan and purpose bigger than I am.