Think about that statement. It is simple. It is straightforward. And it defines a truth that few of us ever consider on a daily basis. But even in the era of the 24 hour news cycle, there still is always more to tell, more to teach, more to share and more to learn.
There is no better time to remember that fact than at the end of May, and specifically on Memorial Day, when we as a nation traditionally look back on our history and honor those who fought and died to preserve liberty here and abroad.
But as each May rolls around, there are fewer of us alive who actually remember personally those individuals whom we honor. They are largely the characters of history. Those who do remember firsthand are old now too, or as we say euphemistically, “living their ‘golden years.’”
That raises a reasonable question: Why do we use that term when so many of those individuals are living out those years isolated, alone or in communities and facilities surrounded only by their peers. What do we mean by “golden years”? What can we do to help ensure that they are, in fact, golden? What do we, each of us, see when we observe the older population?
A good place to start in answering those questions is probably to ask ourselves: Do we really take the time to look? More important, do we really take the time to listen? If the coronavirus taught us anything, all of us, it is probably the hardship and heartache of social isolation. For most of us, thankfully, that isolation was short lived, a time we look back on in the rear view mirror. For most of us.
But that is not necessarily true of our elders. For a variety of reasons some are or feel isolated, alone, passed by, irrelevant. There is a prescription to cure that, a free gift we can all give. It is a listening ear, an open mind and heart, to hear them, acknowledge them, thank them, show them how much we appreciate them for the contributions – yes, the contributions – that each has may to this country.
On this Memorial Day, let us first give tribute and honor to those who gave their lives for our freedom. Then, that day and everyday, let’s do the same for those who knew some of them personally, who bore their loss, whose personal sacrifice was a gift to us.
That’s both “paying it forward” as the saying goes and paying it back.