I remember. My father.
His mercurial moods. His sharp mind and intellect. His ability to be kind. His generosity. His wisdom. His capacity to accept people as they are, to see not their differences but their humanity.
He taught me well.
His wisdom came at great cost to him.
As a teenager he lied about his age and ran off to war. The ‘war to end all wars’ they dubbed it then.
They were wrong.
There have been many wars since. Many boys and many girls running off to fight what they thought to be the noble cause. Many mother’s weeping for the loss of their children. Many graves dug to bury those who did not prevail over the ravages of war.
My father taught me war was not the answer. He taught me to use my words, not my hands. To be kind in the face of adversity. To be strong in the face of bullies. To be caring in the face of hatred.
And to always stand true to the values I hold dear: Honesty. Integrity. Kindness. Generosity. Truth.
My father was not always right. He thought he could change the world by railing against its indignities, its indifferences and inequities.
He thought his words, spoken loudly, could overwhelm the forces of hatred, injustice, cruelty.
His words, like the guns behind which he once fought have been silenced.
And still, his message remains. We cannot overcome hatred with hatred. We cannot disarm cruelty with cruelty.
Only tolerance, compassion, kindness and caring can do that.
Years ago my father ran off to war. A teenager at the time, he came back a silent man with dark moods interrupted by sunny brilliance. He came back with wounds so deep not even time could penetrate the scars.
And he came back with a deep-seated belief in our capacity as individuals to make a difference. Maybe not in the entire world, but most definitely in our own.
My father taught me the value of standing true to what I believe in.
He taught me the importance of giving back, of volunteering and sharing.
He taught me to question authority, not to rebel against it, but to ensure I was not following for the sake of following.
He taught me to look for the roads less travelled. To not take the easy path. To seek the mystery and the possibility of what lies beyond the edge of the known path before me.
He taught me we are all created equal. All one human race. And no one has the right, nor power, to take away my identity unless I choose to let them. He taught me not to make that choice.
And he taught me that we all have flaws. We all have our moments of unease, of disquiet, of playing small, of giving into the voice that would have us let go of our dreams.
In his teachings I have learned the value of beginning again, the measure and worth of forgiveness, the importance of gratitude.
In his memory today I say Thank you.
Thank you dad. Thank you to all those who fight for our freedom. Thank for to those who do not agonize over doing the right thing and then do nothing, but rather who organize to do the right thing, and then do it.
Thank you for the sacrifices. The teaching. The freedom I too often take for granted without realizing it was your youth that was lost so I could enjoy mine; so that my daughters could have the freedom to enjoy theirs today without fear clouding every moment.