I know that there is at least one person out there that may believe this a piece to be about something “other” that what I am writing about. And while the title phrase is used in a variety of ways, let me be specific: When do you hide from being who and what you are?
I am an American. I have traveled to many cultures, observed many who claim to be “our” friends. In moments where being an American, or aligned with us, can cause difficulties, it has become common to eschew the American way. What happened to America being truth, justice and the American way. Where dreams could be fulfilled if “anyone” just worked hard enough?
I was told not too long ago that there was a time in my life when I lived well. From my home, to family, to material things that make life a little easier to handle. It was said in the spirit of disdain. Meaning that somehow doing well was obscene. People look at someone with a particular picture of them in their mind. They do not see the trials, struggles, and days when eating the last can of a vegetable no one can even identify seems like heaven.
So, let’s get real…
Understanding that many, many of our fellow Americans have fallen by the way, what is our obligation? Is it to join them in their misery? Is it to volunteer for a few hours before we return to out castles? What if we decided to stop apologizing for our successes, or the successes of others, and accepted them as blessings that could somehow be shared?
I am not talking about redistribution. I am talking about returning to the mindset of the early 1900′s where 97% of those considered “in need” were taken care of by private foundations, churches, and community giving. That sure sounds like a lot. Especially when we weigh the taxes we must pay. The kids dance lessons, the sports, the rising food expenses of a household. Even the martial arts classes.
American’s have shifted to the mindset that government will take care of us. Fortunately not all of us. For myself, I planned early on to establish a skill. That skill will always find someone willing to employ me. Even if not that much. Accordingly, I developed other skills. The skills established as a young adult remain with me as my interests refocused in other areas. That meant learning new skills, without letting past accomplishments go.
When I was in High School, there was a day where our science teacher was called to the office. He told us that he would permit us to finish our mid-term tests without supervision. He also informed us that he had left the answers on his desk. The pages open and in plain view.
Once Mr. Butler had gone, the room became focused on those pages. The answers that would make a difference in all our lives. After a time, one student after another moved to his desk writing down answers. The need to know became so strong that someone suggested they read the answers aloud.
What happened to the group is not what matters. What the students didn’t know is that Mr. Butler and the Dean of students were listening on the intercom to all that was going on.
The question is; “What would you have done?”
In any number of life’s experiences we find ourselves in problematic situations that require us to make choices. The choices we make may not even be that consequential. Except to ourselves. When we take the lesser road and compromise our stated principles we forget moral consequences. When that happens we become less principled. We decide that our life is better served getting ahead than being truthful — even with ourselves.
We allow our children to remove themselves from a variety of situations just because they say it is too hard. We even hold our tongue when we should speak out. Sometimes to protect the pride of another, or ourselves. In doing so, we fail to learn how growing comes from adversity well-met. I guess this plagues me more today than when I was younger, becoming almost as wise as the parents we once thought so clueless.
If we have fears, we must learn to face them. We cannot hide from those things we find distasteful. We cannot cover for others because someone will think us odd. We also cannot be ashamed of being successful in our endeavors, when that very success reinforces the knowledge that by learning to do one thing, we can do many things. And in some cases, anything.
Divorce is rampant. We forget why we once felt that the world would be whatever we decided. The thrill of triumph over the “unknown.” Yes, this is a personal item that had many reasons for not succeeding. But there are also many excuses. Erasing our poor behavior before those who were closest to us. Starting fresh. New dreams. A new life.
Do you shed a tear when a triple amputee throws out the first ball at the World Series? Does a tear slip from your frozen face when you view a child’s reaction to a parent returning from harm’s way? Do you look forward to the next time that you will be in a theater full of people sharing a good cry? I laugh and cry each time I watch the movie “Patriot,” with Mel Gibson. No matter his personal troubles, no matter what else may divert me — I know when I sit down to watch that movie, I will become that “American” of old. At least for a few hours.
Having said that, isn’t it necessary for us “today” to feel that same pride in accomplishment. To be proud to be an “American.” It isn’t just for people who watch NASCAR, Country Music, and the Military. It is for all those who decide to reach out to a neighbor; black, brown, red, white — even purple. Make them feel welcome.
Help them to come HOME!
To realize that we may not have all the answers, and we may not always get it right. But, as American’s we can band together to raise up those who are in need and re-instill in them the fact that we are all of one mind when it comes to banding together. It won’t take another 911 holocaust. It will take being proud enough to claim your “American” heritage. To be a part of that melting pot that doesn’t distinguish race, color and creed. To be an American.
That means having the courage to not cheat. Not pretend to have values established at out founding that meant toughing it out when there seemed no hope. That means living the principles and values you have established from your earliest days. For “if” those values remain — no one will ever be able to break you. No one will ever be able to take away who you are. That is the legacy you will leave to your children, your children’s children. Can you as a man, or woman, rule yourself? We are all people in need. Simply imperfect, wounded, and maybe broken. But that is when we begin to rebuild, to grow strong.
Let the real you be known…
What we have is an opportunity to teach our children that we are not perfect. We make mistakes. To let them know that we expect them NOT to be perfect. We have an opportunity to teach them about our heroes past. About becoming heroes of the future — simply by living up to those dreams and aspirations that will make them such. It comes from small acts of kindness. It builds into a larger example of how much we care. For our own family, for sure. But for those we do not know. Those of the greater family. The one we had before we ever came to this earth. Whether you believe in the hereafter, or a dozen hereafters. We can share all of this. It can start at home.
Doing what is right
Two young men watched the attack on our diplomatic compound in Benghazi from their position at a safe house. They were told to stand down, rather than help the Ambassadors team when shots were heard. These men informed higher ups of what had happened. They decided to disregard orders and assist anyway. They decided Honor took precedence. That higher duty resulted in two men, who probably knew they would not survive, ignoring orders to help save lives.
I am an American. My duty is to stand along side those whose lives are forfeit in service to others. Our duty is to stand firm in the face of overwhelming opposition. To declare ourselves. That means we don’t take the easy way out. That means we have to teach our children what must be done. No matter what someone here in this country tries to otherwise convince us of. It means that we don’t hide from our decisions. And as we seek to protect others, it also means that we don’t compromise when it comes to holding others to account for their mistakes. We do them a disservice by not helping them disclose hard truths.
And when our leaders stand before the whole world to decry what is factual, we are judged by the integrity of their words. we are judged as Americans. Whether the truth of our words can be counted upon. I am not perfect, far from it. But I am sick to think of how many people I know that refuse to confront themselves, their lives and decisions, and make right terrible wrongs. People who profess faith in a God greater that us all, only to abandon that faith in silent cowardice, reasoned away.
Faith is about letting God lead us out of our comfort zone. Being able to stand on our honor. Just as those who have given their lives that we may remain free deserve to know the nature of every man, woman and child left at home supporting them. Maybe this is why people send their children to others to learn how to grow up. Hoping the lessons they have abandoned might be instilled by those who can still keep their word.
What about our own Team?
The one where standing for one’s principles mean a lot. So many things are simply left for someone else to explain. That is why I choose to make a difference. To stand for something that cannot be easily explained. And even in all my mistakes, I choose to keep my word. Even if all I hope to accomplish isn’t finished until it is time for me to leave this earth.
I had been up for 72 hours straight. I had a meeting in Los Angeles, one in Salt Lake City and another in Phoenix before returning to Los Angeles. I wasn’t able to catch a plane at the time so I drove. By the time I was back in LA, I met these business associates in Santa Monica. As it was late on a Friday afternoon – closer to evening – I excused myself to refresh in the men’s room. Upon returning there was a nice cold beer waiting at my place setting.
I looked to those around me and thanked them for their courtesy of ordering. Then explained that I do not drink. Of the two men and a woman I was meeting, the lady exclaimed; “See I told you he wouldn’t drink it!” Apparently they had “heard” I was Mormon, but wanted to see if I acted like they expected I should. One of the gentlemen asked me if I was a “practicing Mormon.” I answered almost immediately “Yes, No, well… Yes.” I should not have been caught off guard as I was. My explanation might have been smoother. The fact is, I decided not to drink for other reasons — long before becoming Mormon.
I may have decided to drink that beer. I may have decided a lot of things in my life that would not have been known to anyone, except me. That is the rub. I would know. I don’t feel I miss out just because I don’t like the taste of alcohol. Nor for my decisions made long ago not to smoke or take illegal drugs. I have questioned myself at times for wondering if I should feel bad for not experimenting in those venues.
The difference for me is that I appreciated returning troops back in the 70′s. My father is a retired Naval Chief, and I remember watching him leave, and fortunately returning. I remember his China and Vietnam Service medals. I even remember waiting for draft numbers to be called. Knowing that my time would come soon. Instead the war ended. Senator John McCain even spoke at my High School swoon after returning home. I was there.
To those I have had the honor to teach.
Those brave men and women of our armed forces. Those Special Forces who keep us safe from the ills of a world many will never know. I stand ready to welcome you home once more. In doing so, know that I will do what I can to instill in every student entrusted to me the fact that “fear” is only a word. “Integrity” reflects your personal moral code. That lets all of us overcome what many say is impossible.