As I pondered the topic for this November newsletter, of course my initial thoughts were of November 11th, Remembrance Day, and the sacrifices made by our Veterans. The more I reflected, the more I recognized how much each of these possible topic options stirred a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude.
Reminiscing on the life narratives of the war experiences described by relatives and clients has made me deeply aware of how grateful I am for the sacrifices made in the name of world peace. Ruminating on these memories, I recalled a story of an air force pilot who because of his actions was hailed a hero. One day post-war, he was enjoying a coffee in a local café when a stranger excitedly called him by name and exclaimed, “You flew jet fighters.” “You were shot down!” The surprised Veteran inquired about the recognition. The stranger’s simple answer, “I packed your parachutes” forced the Veteran Hero into an internal struggle about not recognizing or even knowing the name of the man who had so carefully folded the silks of each chute; holding in his hands the fate of someone who had never acknowledged him, or shown appreciation or gratitude for the life saving services offered.
Reflecting more on the story, I recall the sadness felt by the Veteran Hero over how during his years of service, he had carried a strong sense of entitlement, rather than an attitude of appreciation and gratefulness. He further emphasized that he had not learned to appreciate and express gratitude until after his life altering event.
A number of years after the death of my son, in a search for inner peace, I reflected on a poem outlining what was required. The following quote from Helen Keller touched me deeply and propelled me onto a new course. “This world is so full of care and sorrow that it is a gracious debt we owe to one another to discover the bright crystals of delight hidden in somber circumstances.” My new journey was in discovery of the power of appreciation and gratitude. I recognized, as did the War Hero Pilot that it had taken a life altering event for me to acknowledge that having a grateful heart was the first step in achieving inner peace; and ever so slowly I understood that my life shrank or expanded in proportion to my attitude and expressions of gratitude. Rachel Naomi Remen, MD. remarked on the contagious aspects of expressions of appreciation. “Much illness may have its roots in unrecognized spiritual distress and in the feelings that we don’t matter anymore.”
Questioning again the connection between gratitude and this newsletter’s topic choices, I pray to be mindful to offer gratitude and appreciation to the everyday heroes who pack my parachute. I further pray that anytime I am shot down, to recall that when this happened to the War Hero Pilot over enemy territory, he desperately required his physical parachute, his emotional parachute and his spiritual parachute to each be in excellent condition. For me, to have all three of these aspects in excellent condition requires appreciating and honoring those who pack my parachute.
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