Recently, I was on Platt Bridge Nation Live for the occasion of Veteran’s Day on the topic of service. These kind gentlemen wanted to take a moment to thank people for being in the military and to discuss a little bit of a book, Nighthawk, written by my good friend and fellow traveler in this world Bill Bowers. It was fun and a thrill to talk about the great times Bill wrote about and the memories his book evoked for me. It was a fun trip down memory road.
One of the things they said to me during the recording was “thanks for your service.” They also thanked me for service as a cop for three decades after the Air Force. Then they went further and thanked me for serving now as a teacher at my university. They joked that if I did other volunteer services I would be special! I’ve done a lot of other stuff but I don’t feel special.
Are We Special?
Are we special because we volunteered to do service for our country? I think serving our country is something that makes us human, not necessarily special. It is also what gives our lives meaning. I volunteered, believing it was important to do so …I considered it a matter of personal integrity. Serving my country is part of serving humanity. Personally, I am proud to say I was able to do something significant in life, something positive. I have served in the military, I have served as a cop in my community, I have earned academic achievements, but I think what makes any of us special is the relationships we build with others. To be honest, my favorite title of all is “Dad.”
It is not service that makes me or anyone else special because service is something we see on a daily basis. However, it is what we take away from that service that is special. For me, that is my philosophy; do something! You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; you just need to show up!
Are We Heroes?
Are we heroes? I don’t think so. Sure, we did some heroic stuff, but I think mostly because we were too scared to not do something, or just too angry and tired. “For most who serve, we are like everyone else: big and small, smart and dumb, capable of good and bad choices. The uniform does not make us heroes. Think about this, does the banker’s suit mean he is honest or a cleric’s robe solidify a pure soul? Yes, there are some who serve that are true heroes — but because of their individual acts, not simply because they chose military careers.
Astore’s definition of a hero: “Someone who behaves selflessly, usually at considerable personal risk and sacrifice, to comfort or empower others and to make the world a better place. So, to those few whom Astore would consider “real heroes,” I salute you. For all others who choose to serve, I’d like to see them as “our brave ones” or “our dedicated ones,” and I also salute you.
So Yes, I Served
So, yes, I served. I served my country and my fellow man in the Air Force. I was a cop for a long time and served my community. Now I teach and try to serve my fellow man by making young adults smarter in the ways of the world and send them out to do service themselves. I served my church on the parish council, the Men’s Club, the PTA, as athletic director for the middle school, as a coach in football, baseball, basketball, karate and even in a sport I was woefully unprepared for; soccer. I worked for charities and have led a few. I have fed the poor, helped with cleanup after disasters, helped battered women find safety, provided a helping hand to children in need of care, donated toys at Christmas and so forth. I served. I loved it; it made me feel better, so is that selfish of me for enjoying myself? It may very well have been, but there is nothing written in stone that says serving is not to be enjoyed.
Can I Do More?
Of course, I can do more; one can always do more. Still, the important thing is to do what you can, when you can. Do your best, that’s all you can do. Many people I know do nothing because they think it is impotent of them, that they can’t do enough to solve the problems of the world, or their city, or their neighborhood. So they do nothing. I say change your thinking. Something is always better than nothing. All good things start with the first step.
I don’t see what I did and what I do necessarily as a “service.” I think I have to do something to make my part of the world a bit better. I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do. If that is service then I am guilty of it.
Blow Your Own Horn
I don’t write this as a way to blow my own horn, although I often joke that I not only blow my own horn but lead that dang orchestra. I mention service because, like all major religions teach us, we must help those who need us. I believe that and try to live that way. I am no Mother Teresa, far from it. But I do think that we need to serve our fellow man when and where we can. Furthermore, if we do blow the horn, we may just be a force for change or inspiration to others.
When thanked on Platt Bridge Nation, I thanked them, and you, for allowing me to serve. I recently visited the Hemingway Home in Key West (Thanks, Rick!!). There was a great quote by Ernest Hemingway that I find fitting for this little note. “Everyman’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” So go distinguish yourself and do what you can, where you can, when you can. Go serve again my brothers and sisters of the blue beret!