Category: Gratitude

Section 27

We’re never far from the Civil War, woven into our conscious and unconscious. Arlington Estate was owned by Mary Custis Lee, descendent of Martha Washington and spouse of Robert E. Lee. The estate was seized by the US Army in 1861. Its grounds included Freedman’s Village, for freed and escaped slaves. In 1864, part of the estate became Arlington National Cemetery. Black soldiers were buried in Section 27. Arlington remained segregated by rank and race until 1948.

Of 3,525 Medals of Honor, 3,000 were pre-World War I, with 473 World War II honorees. Since 1916, the Medal has become more rare, yet more fair. Since the end of World War II, over two dozen Medals have been awarded to men who were denied the Medal during the war due to their race, ethnicity, or religion. In 1997, President Bill Clinton presented the Medal to seven African Americans (who fought in WW2). Three years later, President Clinton presented 22 Japanese American veterans with the Medal of Honor.

Of the seven blacks honored In 1997, Vernon Baker was the only one still alive. The Korean War brought 146 recipients, including the last two African Americans to receive the Medal for service in a segregated unit: Cornelius Charlton and William Henry Thompson. The 250 Vietnam War recipients include 22 African Americans. James Anderson, Jr., was the first black Marine recipient. A month after his 20th birthday, Anderson covered an enemy grenade with his body just before it exploded.

These stories–going back to the Revolutionary War–amplify the absurd fear of “replacement.” The question is whether we who are late to the party (the real “replacements”) will sing in gratitude:

Oh beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife
Who more than self, their country loved
And mercy more than life

Section 27, from the Arlington National Cemetery

Imperfect unions

I’ve been thinking about the Preamble to the US Constitution, which begins, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union….” The process of perfecting is never-ending.

As I drove home yesterday from an overnight men’s retreat, I was thinking about the process of being made perfect. The men at the retreat reflected on wholeness in the midst of imperfections.

After a few minutes of Radio Margaritaville to decompress, I listened to a May 3 interview with Alan Alda, 86, on Bullseye with Jesse Thorn. His earliest memories are traveling with his parents to burlesque theaters. His father, Robert Alda (1914-1986) was a singer, dancer and actor. His mother, Joan Browne (1906-1990), suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

As Alda shared memories of his mother, I thought about Mothers Day, my late mom, and our retreat conversations about grace, healing and wholeness in the midst of imperfections and imperfect unions.

From NPR’s Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, May 3, 2022

An immigrant’s gift

Ten years ago, Amjad Masad entered the US as a 24-year-old immigrant from Jordan. Peggy Noonan provides background, including the story that his father, a Palestinian immigrant to Jordan, gave 6-year-old Amjad a computer. Thus began Masad’s dream to live in Silicon Valley. Five years ago he became co-founder and CEO of Replit, a company that helps people learn programming.

Last month, Masad posted on Twitter “10 things I love about this country.” I’ve been depressed about much that’s happening in our country, and as I read Masad’s “10 things,” I found myself thinking, “Yes, but….” Then I decided to simply enjoy his wonderment, enthusiasm and gratitude. I’m energized to make it a better place by living into (and up to) our yet-to-be-actualized ideals.

You can read Masad’s background via the Noonan link. You can access Masad’s tweet (actually 12 tweets) from the “10 things” link. Here’s a short version of his list: (1) work ethic; (2) lack of corruption; (3) win-win mindset; (4) rewarding talent; (5) open to weirdos; (6) forgiveness; (7) basic infrastructure; (8) optimism; (9) freedom; (10) access to capital. He concluded his tweets with:

… my experience can be very different from yours. Also, we can do a lot better, and make sure everyone has equal access to opportunity. Finally, many of the things that I talked about are under threat, largely from people who don’t know how special they have it. America is worth protecting, and realizing that progress can be made without destroying the things that made it special.

From Amjad Masad’s series of Twitter posts, linked above

Memorial Day

Looking at Memorial Day through the defining presence of the Jesus model, I’m struck immediately by the theme of personal sacrifice for the common good and by the historic diversity of the nation’s military. Today we honor the memory of those who died in our service, giving themselves for those of us who may differ in faith, ethnicity, culture or region. Military units were once identified by state or region, but over time we have become more amalgamated and inclusive.

I see that diversity when I visit a national cemetery. The Jesus model is to give a gift not because we the recipients deserve it. Hopefully, the depth of the gift (i.e., veterans who died in action) will inspire us with gratitude and devotion to the cause of freedom and equal justice under the law.

My cousin Ed, a trained navigator, career USAF pilot and Vietnam veteran, now retired, sent me this email and the photo below:

To some, Memorial Day is just another three day weekend.

To others, it is of profound significance.

One member of my 39 strong navigator class was killed in combat.

Three of my 50 member pilot training class died in the cockpit, too. The one killed in combat was my formation flying partner. The young son he never saw grew up to be a Navy fighter pilot and is now USN retired.

I remember them all laughing when they were age 25, over 50 years ago.

Veterans do not forget.

Jenn Budenz lies on a blanket with her 2-month-old son AJ as they visit the grave of her husband and father of her child Major Andrew Budenz, a Marine buried at the Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego. Budenz was killed in a motorcycle accident. Hayne Palmour IV / San Diego Union-Tribune (May 23, 2014)

Honor Roll

On this day, in this year, let’s give thanks for the people who are helping us through a global pandemic, such as the custodians, orderlies, EMTs, volunteers, and other medical staff who work behind the scenes, as well as nurses, aides, technicians, therapists, physicians, and their families.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in and around a senior facility where my aunt resides. Additional paperwork and safety protocols have added to the staff’s workload as they operate with increased regulations and scrutiny. I’m grateful for hospice and home health care professionals.

In normal times, teaching is another difficult job that’s not always appreciated. COVID-19 has added another level of hazard to this duty and to the roles of other education staff, such as bus drivers and custodial, kitchen, and office personnel.

It’s been a tough year for all kinds of front line employees and business owners who’ve struggled to adapt to new distance and sanitation regimens.

We’re indebted to civil servants, non-profit staffs and volunteers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and those who serve in the military for working under increased stress and with greater personal risk.

Families, neighbors and sometimes strangers have stepped into the breach to help children and their parents, as well as elderly family members and those with special needs.

There’s much about 2020 that we would gladly erase from our memories, but let’s always remember these and countless others on our Honor Roll.

Coronavirus cartoons: Honoring healthcare workers, the heroes amid the pandemic,” by Dylan Bouscher, The Mercury News, April 1, 2020 (cartoon by Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Gratitude Day

It may be just a figure of speech, but when I hear someone refer to “Turkey Day,” it feels like the holiday has been demoted. I understand some people are uncomfortable with the religious basis for this day. It’s not my style to foist my faith on a resident of the Secular City, but some themes transcend religion–such as simple, basic gratitude. For me, today is Gratitude Day.

Long ago I heard John Claypool (1930-2005) at a community Thanksgiving Service. He said it makes all the difference whether one sees a glass as half full or half empty. He re-framed this common (some would say trite) saying. I believe that to see a glass as half full is an important, universal principle that knows no boundary of time, geography, race, gender, or religion.

I believe loneliness, the feeling of separateness, can cause us to see a glass as half empty. The pandemic has brought us lockdowns, quarantines, social distancing and (most tragically) dying alone. We feel separated.

I’m helped by Richard Rohr’s insistence that separateness is an illusion. We are never alone, though this has been tough to remember in 2020: “We must all overcome the illusion of separateness. It is the primary task of religion to communicate … union, to reconnect people to their original identity…. God’s job description is to draw us back into primal and intimate relationship.”

Tomorrow: Gratitude for those who are helping us through the pandemic.

Recently, I ran across an 11-minute video by John Claypool, “Ambiguity and Gratitude” in which he describes the power of gratitude as a choice in the midst of difficult situations.