This I Believe

Karen - Tucson, Arizona
Entered on February 19, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I Believe

I believe in the honoring of human endeavor. One must consider triumphs both great and small: From the teetering first steps of the toddler to the immigrant sworn in as an American citizen. The victories of ordinary people are seldom celebrated. Mother Teresa once said that, “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.” Yet, love and appreciation are rarely extended to those who do not fall within the strict parameters of family and personal friendships.

Why should we care whether or not our child’s preschool teacher or the elderly neighbor feel appreciated? Because human dignity has taken some major hits in recent years, and though you or I may not feel directly responsible, our collective conscience has taking a beating.

The simple act of honoring serves to encourage and to draw attention to qualities associated with strength, striving, faith, and fortitude. I’ve been in quite a few airports lately, and there seem to be large numbers of soldiers returning from Iraq. They are young, fresh-faced, and handsome in their crisp desert uniforms. These are ordinary men and women who have volunteered to engage in battle for America.

Sometimes, I manage to thank them before the tears come. They respond politely, and I want to say, “No, I really want to thank you for what you’re doing. Please, bring your squadron over to my house for dinner…” But I’m not family. My hands are tied.

I board a flight out of Dallas and several passengers offer their first-class seats to military personnel. They give them a hot breakfast in first class, we can smell it. Other passengers conspire, whispering like parents planning a surprise party: What else can we do? Buy them drinks? One man tries to convince the head flight attendant to make everyone stay seated upon landing, let the soldiers disembark first. But she won’t have it. The captain piloting the plane salutes them before take-off and we all cheer.

Eleanor Roosevelt observed that, “The giving of love is an education in and of itself.” For or against the war, it doesn’t matter. We have them captive and we are going to make sure that they know that we love and appreciate them.

I cry for the beauty of this rare moment of public honoring among strangers. I exit behind them, our sleek warriors, as they stride forward searching the crowd for familiar faces. I cry for the strong wives and the patient children. I cry for the soldiers who no one is meeting. They are my brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters.

I believe in the honoring of humankind. I believe that some small part of your honoring will inspire me to challenge the limits of my own striving. I believe that the practice of honoring has the potential to begin to restore human dignity. And I believe that acts of honoring encourage us all to become our best and brightest.