This coming Monday is Memorial Day, which for those who are reading from overseas is a very special day on our calendar where we remember and honor people who have died while serving in the United States armed forces. Each of these men and women made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
I’m from the United Kingdom originally and, across the pond, we honor the fallen on a different date —Nov. 11 (or the closest second Sunday). Originally this day of remembrance was called “Armistice Day” to recognize cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at 11 in the morning on the 11th day of the 11th month.
Innately as humans, we have the ability to honor and respect other people for their heroic efforts. We recognize greatness and especially those who have defended our country against evil in the world and fought on behalf of other nations oppressed by terrible dictatorships. We celebrate their goodness in fighting badness.
A while ago, with a group of close friends we helped another couple empty the house of an aging parent who will never be returning home due to her advanced years and rapidly declining health. It was a very emotional process for the couple. After several trips to the local donation center it was very evident the person was being remembered for who she was rather than what she’d owned. The crockery, cutlery and trinkets were all packed up and given away. The elderly parent was remembered for her goodness.
Some of you as my readers have retired; some are in mid-career and some just started in the workplace, but either way, pause and bring to mind your colleagues and especially leaders you work with, or worked for. What comes to mind when you think of them?
Are they hard workers? Are they men and women of high character and high competence? Are they humble? Do they have a servant’s heart or are they self-serving? Are they people of their word? Are they bent out of shape or do they have a balance between work and home? If they’ve been blessed with children, do you know if they’re good parents? How’s their marriage if you know they’re married? Problems at home often spill into the workplace. Joy at home can help our work be more meaningful. You see, we remember them by their goodness or their badness.
I know from my own personal experience there are some colleagues I remember fondly and others… err, not so much. Likewise, there are leaders I’ve worked for who I have very good memories of, and others I hope to never see again. What is it about our human condition that causes some of us to be fruitful in our relationships whereas others seem like dried-up fig trees? What is the difference in water source, that springs goodness in some and not in others?
One of the wonderful aspects of human beings is that we have freedom of choice — we are free to choose our response to what happens to us and around us. Our tomorrow doesn’t have to be our past as we can choose to change in the present. So, whether you work full-time, part-time or volunteer in some capacity — do what you do to the very best of your ability.
Don’t just work for money — as Lennon and McCartney once sang: “Money can’t buy me love.” Remember, after you’ve covered your living costs, you’re likely to just end up buying trinkets anyway, which are going to end up in a box someday to be dropped off at some donation center. Work to be of help to others. Our work can be love made visible. Service is the rent we pay for living on this Earth. My observation in the workplace is that wonderful co-workers and exceptional leaders are remembered for their sacrificial service and their servant’s heart.
So, on this Memorial Day let us remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to a cause bigger than self. In a similar way, let us reflect upon our roles as spouses, parents, friends, co-workers and leaders. I hope you and I are remembered for our goodness and not our badness.
Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaftd.com). For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].