“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
Melody Beattie, American author
“Make Your Bed,” by Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy, retired), lay on the coffee table. A gift to Sam by a friend, but right then Sam was taken up with Mississippi State tournament play for boys’ baseball and girls’ softball. I picked up the 100-or-so-page book. The subtitle said, “Little things that can change your life … sand maybe the world.” All that in 100 pages; I began to read.
On May 17, 2014, McRaven delivered a commencement speech at the University of Texas in Austin. The book’s jacket reported the speech went viral, seen by over 10 million viewers. I can see why. I think McRaven’s 10 simple lessons changed my life, certainly my perspective, even though I already make my bed.
I won’t share all the lessons; you can read the book yourself. It’s not so much the lessons gripping my heart as the stories fleshing out the lessons. The book began when four-star Adm. McRaven entered the Navy’s SEAL training program as a “tadpole.”
Closing the book with tears in my eyes, I told Sam, “There’s a whole world out there we know nothing about. While I’m sitting here on my comfy little porch watching the cardinals eat sunflower seeds and the prothonotary warbler tweet sweet melodies and drinking coffee you made and delivered, there are scores of men and women out there risking life and limb, being separated from their families and people they love so I can sit here on my comfy little porch and watch the birds and drink coffee with you.”
What is just as disturbing is that there is an Air Force base nearby, and I am so unaware in any real way of the lives and sacrifices of those men and women. For that, I truly apologize.
The news reports when tragedies happen, but here’s the real deal: “The large room at Dover Air Force Base was filled with grieving families — inconsolable children sobbing in their mothers’ arms, parents holding hands hoping to gain strength from each other, and wives with a far-off look of disbelief … a large C-17 transport aircraft was scheduled to land … and the families of the fallen heroes (38) would be escorted to the flight line to meet the flag-draped coffins.”
McRaven admits he struggled with what to say to the bereaved while the words of Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly — “tall, lean, with close-cropped gray hair and dressed in an immaculate Marine uniform” — seemed to have a profound effect. Kelly smiled and hugged, and the families smiled and hugged back.
Could this be the same John Kelly, the current Chief of Staff John Kelly? I googled John Kelly and yes, one and the same. Marine 1st Lt. Robert Kelly was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, John and Karen Kelly’s youngest son. The Kellys had stood by a flag-draped coffin for their own son.
McRaven concludes, ” … life is not fair … take some risks, step up when times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden, and never, ever give up … you can change your life … and maybe the world.”
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