My father fought in the Philippines during the latter part of World War II, earning an Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross as a gunner-navigator sitting in the back seat of a Douglas Dauntless SBD dive-bomber. Like so many Americans who served during that conflict, the personal sacrifices he made were great. Even so, judging from the way Dad would describe the time he spent overseas, I felt certain that ultimately he gained far more than he ever gave up.
Given that I’m well beyond draft age (if the U.S. even had a draft), it’s doubtful I’ll ever find myself making similar sacrifices. And yet, my father’s experience remains to this day as an example to me of the great good that can come from being willing to give up something you cherish.
Of course, there’s a lot in life to cherish – your family and friends, your home, your lifestyle – all which would be pretty hard to give up. But for me, the most consistently difficult thing to let go of is my opinion of things.
Usually this isn’t that big of a deal. After all, does it really matter that I generally like one political party more than another, one baseball team, one brand of car? Probably not. But what about my opinion of myself? Is there anything to be gained by letting go of some perception that could very well be getting in the way of my leading a happy, healthy life?
Over the years I’ve found that a willingness to see myself in a different light provides far more than a temporary boost in self-esteem. On many occasions it’s actually had the effect of getting rid of some pretty troubling physical problems. Headaches, the flu, strained muscles, skin infections – even a bad case of sciatica – were all taken care of, not with some needle, lotion, or pill but by consciously letting go of the idea that I was created as some kind of whipping boy for every ailment that happens to cross my mental path.
Some might see this as “positive thinking.” I’d describe it, instead, as transformed thinking born of an innate desire to see myself from a more enlightened – call it divine – perspective. This desire, this willingness to sacrifice the unhealthy for the healthy, is really just another way to describe what I ordinarily refer to as prayer. Through this process – just like my dad in World War II – I always find that I’ve gained far more than I ever thought I was giving up.
So, in honor of Veterans Day, I’d simply like to say, “Thanks Dad,” for the example you gave and the tremendous help it’s been to me throughout the years.