In the last 5 years, my Memorial Day reflections have focused around symbols, happenings and people from a rural community who have stirred incredible emotion and remembrance. There was the 7th generation farmer marine surviving Iraq to milk cows again, the site of a fallen soldier’s procession along our road, stones from a barn foundation, an old elm tree, a country song, a matriarch Alpine goat and some hallowed grass. This year’s inspiration comes from a simple yet poignant tie-dyed green and white bracelet.
At first glance it’s just a piece of plastic but on the surface it makes a suggestion: What would Daniel do? This tribute to 7 year old Daniel Barden who perished at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut reminds us on Memorial Day to inspire others to share his compassion, selflessness, gratitude and appreciation for life, essentially committing you to random acts of kindness. “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself”, noted Ralph Waldo Emerson.
My tears drop onto the keyboard wishing young Daniel could see how this premise of kindness is alive and well in everyday life. Every weekend there is a volunteer benefit for a family or person that has faced the loss of a home or loved one; needs funds to pay for medical care or to put food on the table. These charitable acts are furthered by the caregivers that take care of our physical and mental well-being when the odds seem insurmountable with a simple hug or word of encouragement.
We all have certain charities and causes we support with donations or time depending on our personal choices. I fall into this category as a cemetery trustee and Sons of the American Legion member. Even though I wear the WWDD bracelet, I’m sorrowful for all the families and children like Daniel who will never get to see their mom or dad paying the ultimate price for defending democracy and freedom.
It’s especially troublesome for my generation to witness over 7000 U.S. service members perishing in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. It’s scary and staggering to think how many souls gave their life for freedom in the previous two centuries.
Memorial Day for me, ushers in the sacred opportunity to honor and care for the hallowed ground where my heroes were laid to rest. As I approach 50 years old, I can’t help but wonder who will be the next caretaker (younger) with random acts of kindness. I worry the grass will cover up the memories and the stone foundations will crumble. Worse yet, the maintenance will become “just another job” to the lowest bidder. Our heroes deserve not to be forgotten.
Upon looking for the true meaning of the green-sickle jewelry, my calling came amongst the 200 year old pines battling a fierce hoard of Blackflies. As I swatted furiously, the weed-eater ended up burying itself in a rug of pine needles and roots. To my amazement, this random act of coincidence uncovered the corner of a brass plate which as I wiped, was a monument of an Army veteran secretly waiting for the Lord’s signal to be found.
Could Daniel’s spirit have willed this to happen as a thank you for supporting his notion of kindness? I have to, and want to, believe it. Hope, belief and faith are powerful tools when coupled with people who are kind.
In observing the sentiment of Memorial Day, I hope you can appreciate and draw strength from these words:
“Someone is missing…
Let this be a loving reminder that someone is missing today.
Someone our hearts still hold onto,
As we travel along life’s way.
Someone who made life special,
For all who gather here.
Someone who won’t be forgotten,
But cherished from year to year.
And now as we all pause to remember,
Let us all fondly recall,
How dearly each of us loved them,
and oh how they loved us all.”